Events have the power to bring like-minded people together like nothing else in the world does. From concerts to conferences, there's something for everybody. But who runs these events? What does it take to be one of the chosen few? Where does someone start?
“As an army officer's son, I used to attend a lot of parties, a lot of events and personally when I look back now, that’s probably where my love for managing events started,” answered Abhisht Abhivyakti Pathak, one of India’s brightest event managers. Abhisht has organized hundreds of events with forerunners like TED and Josh Talks, and is currently working with Bangalore-based fintech company CRED.
This is his story...
Log Kya Kahenge
Like most Indian teenagers burdened by the pressure of ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ (loose translation: ‘What will the people say’), young Abhisht chose the society-friendly course called engineering. In 2012, he enrolled himself in the aerospace engineering programme at SRM University in Chennai, and well…that's one of Abhisht's few events that didn't go as per plan.
He entered college and learnt that aerospace engineering isn’t what it seemed like from the outside. So he shifted focus and started expending time volunteering for events instead. With time he moved up the event hierarchy. He finally felt at home. He knew this is where he belonged. So while still in college, he started an event management company with two of his friends. He added, “When we started out, we used to do a lot of community engagement building events and that laid the foundation for me, enabling me to take up a career in marketing.”
Passion to Profession
After college, Abhisht got placed into a company and was working there full-time but he didn’t let his passion for events die down. Along with some of his friends, he organized a TEDx event in Chennai. Then he moved to Delhi to work in a marketing agency. Delhi was no exception, Abhisht started organizing his own events in the capital too. He took up a TEDx license and organized TEDxPariChowk in Delhi and also co-organized TEDxDharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.
These successes translated into more opportunities and he began his consulting journey where he was helping agencies them with ideation, event execution, and more.
Finally, in 2018, he landed his first event management job which was with the acclaimed Indian media platform Josh Talks. Abhisht recounted, “I was hired to head to the events team in Josh Talks in 2018 and I worked with them for a period of about the one year and in one year I organized upwards of 400 conferences, events and workshops.”
After an accolade-filled stint at Josh Talks, he made a move to the fintech company CRED where he currently works. Abhisht works on community engagement, brand activations along with creating and curating great offline experiences for the app users.
The Power of Networks
“Never underestimate the power of networks”, quoted Abhisht. Explaining his statement, he said, “I have always believed that if you have good friends then that is a truly valuable asset." He continued, "When I was starting out, what I did was just approach friends asking for help. I don't really know what other people think, but I think if you can openly ask for help, there's a lot of value that you'll start getting.”
After a few hits, Abhisht’s network grew bigger, and he became acquainted with major brands, thought leaders, and industry experts. He furthered, “When you start talking to such influential people. If you can leave a good impression on them as an individual, then they become regular assets in your life. They keep helping you whenever you need it.” Adding to that, he said, “But on some days even these assets need help, and they reach out to you, that’s when you need to deliver and concretise your connection with the person.”
Speaking about the importance of delivering quality in work, Abhisht stressed on referrals, saying, “One person who loved working with you who will refer their friends to you because they have confidence in you and these referrals grow exponentially.”
Over the years, working with a lot of brands and getting connected with some of the best in the game opened up a lot of avenues for Abhisht and taught him lessons right out of an MBA programme like understanding client management, campaign development, event management and more.
Abhisht's Advice for Aspiring Event Managers
Get hands-on experience. Try to find somebody who's organizing any kind of event and get them to just make you a volunteer. Don't think about money first start working as a volunteer and just see what happens. If you're in college, volunteer for as many events as you can, it’ll really help.
The Secret Sauce
Abhisht strongly believes in the power of mentorship. He believes that finding the right mentor is crucial to success. Over the years, he’s had numerous mentors right from his first boss to his friends. He likes to work with mentors who help him learn how to build his own things, who could tell him how to do things or how to approach things rather than what to do.
“It's quite easy to find a mentor these days,” said Abhisht. He continued, “All you have to do is ask. If you love events, approach people who you think can help you. Seek guidance. It is all about finding that one person that’s right for you. And a mentor doesn’t give you everything, the mentor just helps you find your way which empowers you to become a better version of yourself.”
Plan, Execute, Adapt, Excel
There are so many variables when it comes to every single event that it’s almost impossible to have an event with null errors. Abhisht believes that the real art of event management is coming up with solutions for the errors when they do crop up. “Not every time you start working on an event does the event turn out like you imagined. Hell, sometimes events are stillbirths and you don’t ever bear the fruit of your labour,” elaborated the enthusiastic Pathak.
Quoting an example, he said wittily, “On CRED we started moving from offline events to online events during the COVID-19 lockdown since we can’t do offline events. We can’t do offline events, that doesn’t mean, we can’t do events at all, does it?” Abhisht is a glass-half-full kind of a person and that helps him have clarity, and be positive even when the going gets tough. “And that's the first step towards finding the solutions,” he stated.
Abhisht’s Six Steps to Organizing Events
Step 1: Do your research. Find out what people want and then deliver. Don’t just create any event because you have the ability to. Instead, create events that people would want to attend.
Step 2: Create Content. Make sure you have marketing collaterals, pitch decks for sponsors, about sections, a logo, and more.
Step 3: Approach Sponsors. Don’t just reach out to any brand. Choose a brand that would benefit from sponsoring your event. Make sure they need you as much if not more than you need them.
Step 4: Know Your Finances. Create a Budget. Make sure you know amount you will be generating from ticketing and sponsorship. And also have a download on what you need to execute the event. Try to conserve cost but not at the cost of quality.
Step 5: Approach People. Make sure you have your artists, speakers, venues in place. Also, try and build a team of volunteers to help you. Make sure your target audience knows about the event.
Step 6: Have fun. Now that it’s hour zero, and the event is running, just enjoy the process of running the show. Unless you’re not having fun organizing the event. Those attending it will not have fun.
Abhisht has high hopes for the future and is all set to take everyone by the storm. He aims to run his own company full-time in the next couple of years. He will continue executing events for other companies but is also going to organize his own intellectual property events every year. Another interesting project he is working on is a platform that connects learners to mentors who are willing to impart knowledge.
For Abhisht life is a series of events, quite literally. And I know they’re going to be the fortunate kind. There's a lot in store for this young achiever; an eventful journey awaits him.
About the 21 series:
On the 24th of March 2020, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced a nation-wide lock-down for 21 days to fight the pandemic that is the Coronavirus. Citizens mustn’t leave their homes unless absolutely essential. This series aims to bring to the readers 21 positive stories through this lock-down. Something to inspire them to keep at it and come back out of this horrific tragedy stronger.
If you have an inspiring story or know someone whose story the world must know, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org