I remember when I was leading the River Pageant, at the time the biggest event I had ever run, having that imposter syndrome moment. I was hiring every freelancer I knew to work on it, some of them with 15 years more experience than me, had I earnt the right to be running this project? What I did know is that I have a way with people – connecting with people, understanding why they are upset, angry or concerned and finding a way to take them on the journey with me to create amazing events. It’s always been instinctive to me and I probably didn’t realise what it was, but I now realise this empathy is core to emotional intelligence. And if you are open to it, it can be taught. 

For me, there are two parts to emotional intelligence – firstly knowing yourself and how to manage your own emotions and secondly understanding other people through empathy and nurturing those relationships. Whilst I have always used empathy, it is only in the last few years that I have become more aware of myself and managing my own emotions. As a naturally positive person, it felt like a weakness to show negative emotions, but I have learnt that without processing those emotions it’s more detrimental and by opening up and talking about those feelings, my personal relationships have become even stronger. 

Why is it important in events? Events are challenging – there is a fixed deadline, often multiple stakeholders with differing motivations and some elements out of your control – most notably the weather but the list is endless! And we are taught the skills of project management – strong leadership, clear deadlines and showing we are in control, yet that approach alone can ignore the importance of building relationships with all your stakeholders. It is a fine art to use empathy to understand others, know when to adapt your style, cut people some slack and still keep the project on track but it can be done! 

We will explore how this can be done in events: 

  • • Understanding emotional intelligence and how it can help you 
  • • Using tools to understand and manage your own emotions 
  • • Widening your emotional vocabulary 
  • • Understanding different social styles 
  • • Analysing situations with everyone in mind 
  • • Developing your listening skills 
  • • Thinking hard about which communication style you should use 

Most of all, it’s about understanding your values and staying true to them so that when you adapt, you remain authentic in your style. 

Rosanna Machado

Project Director and passionate educator