A: 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5BY

24 Hours as an event manager at Christmas

Christmas is the busiest time of the year at 8 Northumberland Avenue. Everyone is working hard, but it’s up to AlchemyLive event managers like Nikki Daniels to turn months of painstaking planning into hours of faultless entertainment for each of her clients and their guests. Despite the frenetic pace of the run-up to Christmas, we managed to sit down with Nikki for a chat about what the next few weeks will hold.

Created: 29th Apr 2016
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We need a glitter cannon to go off every twenty minutes on the dance-floor.

The most surprising thing about Christmas events is?

That it takes a massive amount of time to plan them, but we have only hours to set up and take down the event space.

Believe it or not, we started designing our themes last December! These are only the general features which clients will then customise, but it takes a long time (and lots of mood boards) to decide what goes where. I’ve probably looked at over 500 pieces of furniture for our rooms this year.

After months of design work it only takes us about 48 hours to install our theme into the venue. It’s one big burst of energy and we can build and rig a stage with crushed velvet and hundreds of metres of LED lighting in around 8 hours. Once the theme is in place, each event will be set up according to a client’s instructions on the day.

So how do clients design their events?

Well, we normally start in August by talking face to face over a floorplan and asking what they’re trying to achieve. Clients normally start with our entry package, but they then develop that to create their bespoke event.

One might say: “We need a glitter cannon to go off every twenty minutes on the dance-floor.” And it’s our job to get that done. Giant snow globes, vodka luges, indoor blizzards – I’ve seen it all. We’ve even done an ice rink in the middle of the room before, which was great. You’d be surprised at how varied the requests are; I have honestly never delivered two events that were alike.

Jumping forward a few weeks - what's your daily routine?

I’ll wake up at about 9 and have a (large!) cup of coffee for breakfast. I get a couple things done before arriving at work at midday. That might sound really late, but event nights finish at around 3am and I need my sleep!

The first thing I’ll do is make sure I’m right up-to-date on the specifics of the event. A lot of this is scheduling, for example: when are our suppliers arriving? Are photographers attending the event? If so, when, and will they be fed? I’ll talk to the chef and then meet with our operations team, where we’ll go through the timing for the evening’s event line by line.

What’s important is that everyone knows who needs what, when and how - from cloakroom and security to the staff member who offers the first drink. The client for that night’s event will view the room at around 5pm, by which time everything needs to be perfect.

What's it like when the client finally sees the room?

Honestly, it’s one of the best feelings in the world!

You have to remember that the last time they visited the space it was empty. Now it’s (fingers crossed) everything they could have hoped for. There are very few jobs where you get to design something on paper, build it and get to see the excited reactions of clients and their guests.

And what's the hardest part of managing events at Christmas?

The first event after we’ve finished setting up the new themes is quite nerve-wracking. Everyone is under pressure to carry off each event just as well as the last, and it’s essential to manage your time as efficiently as possible.

That’s why it’s so important to trust your team; I really have to stress that the events we do require a massive amount of teamwork. I might help coordinate 2,400 meals in a week, but without our sales team, chefs and core operations staff that simply wouldn’t be imaginable. Event managers might shoulder the burden of difficult requests, but we’re also the first to receive gratitude for pulling them off!

Are you on call during a event?

Of course! First we’ll light the candles and make sure that the room is spotless before guests start arriving. Then I’ll be behind the scenes throughout the evening, making sure that everything runs smoothly and that all the little touches are taken care of. That might involve anything from discussing the set list with the DJ and coordinating with the chefs to booking transport for guests at the end of the evening. I’ll take around 30,000 steps on a really busy night.

And what happens after an event finishes?

That’s when I have my little Cinderella moment: the earpiece comes out, flats come on and I can start to slow down.

All the guests will all have left by midnight, and we get something to eat before starting to clean up and de-rig the room. Things like blowing out candles, clearing tables and stacking chairs; we’re putting the venue to bed - and it normally gets to sleep before we do!

I usually spend an hour checking my email before taking a cab back home. I’ll wake up at 9am and do the same again tomorrow (hopefully remembering to put some laundry in).

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