A Day in the Life of... Ben Emerson, Senior Manager in Venue Management, Baku 2015 European Games
1. What does a Senior Manager in Venue Management actually do?
The Senior Manager’s role in our team is taking on the responsibility to oversee and lead the operational planning and delivery at our venues for Baku 2015. In the planning phase, we lead venue teams made up of a number of functions such as transport, logistics, event services, sport, protocol, security, broadcast, press operations, and many more. We are responsible for building the team and to coordinate detailed planning tasks for our venues. Before the Games, our responsibility changes to become operational, where we manage venues as Venue General Managers to support the venue team and deliver safe and successful Games operations.
2. Can you lead us through a timeline of a typical day in the office?
I’m sure many people says this, but it really is a case of every day is different at Baku 2015. It’s a very busy and dynamic office environment with staff from more than 40 different countries. We have consistency and structure through our weekly function and venue team meetings, but other than that anything can come up so we have to be flexible and adaptive every day. We chair or attend many internal planning meetings with functions. We negotiate, discuss and present our plans with external stakeholders such as venue owners, government agencies, and contractors. We spend large amounts of time out of the office at the venues reviewing the plans to validate our office discussions. We also spend important one-on-one time with venue team staff to get an understanding on challenges they are facing which hopefully can be resolved with the assistance of our team. Our days are usually gone before you can blink an eye!
3. How do you become a Senior Manager in Venue Management?
The Senior Manager staff within our team have come to Azerbaijan from varying backgrounds within the sport and major event industry. Our team have been involved in a number of projects such as Summer and Winter Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships, Pan American Games, FIFA World Cups, and a number of other international events. Although we have an experienced team in major events here, none of us have done it in Azerbaijan or Baku, so it’s a new experience for all.
Because of such varying backgrounds within the team, there’s no specific route to become a Venue Manager within the major event industry. I have arrived in Baku through following my passion for sport, travel and experiencing different cultures. As unfortunately I was far from a gifted athlete, I was never going to make a career out of professional sport, so I decided to study sport management at home in Australia. This led to an opportunity to work on an exchange in Canada where I received my first taste of sport event management. The Commonwealth Games in Melbourne were my first major event, where my interest in working in the multi-sport Games environment kicked off. Five Games later and after working in different countries, I find myself living here in Azerbaijan.
4. What are the qualities needed to be a Senior Manager in Venue Management and what have you learned since being in the role?
Everyone has their personal style when managing teams, but there are certain qualities that are important for the role. Strong communication skills and an ability to change your management style to align with varying personality types within teams is important. Strategic thinking and previous experience helps. Being calm under pressure and being productive with your time allows you to manage many situations, projects and issues at once.
As you are dealing with many stakeholders it’s also important to have strong project management skills, and be able to form positive working relationships at all levels. You have to keep focused on the big picture and lead the team to successfully deliver for Games time.
Since being in Baku, the biggest opportunity I’ve had has been to work in close collaboration with our Azerbaijani staff and external stakeholders. They’ve continued to teach me about the culture and the sport/event industry in the country which has been very interesting, and has been of great assistance in performing our Baku 2015 role.
5. Can you tell us about a project/task within your Major Sport Event career that you have particularly enjoyed?
To be honest, all of the projects I’ve worked on in the industry have been enjoyable. Melbourne & Doha 2006 were opportunities to learn about major events. Vancouver 2010 provided great experience, and London 2012 was by far the biggest and most complex project I’ve been part of.
However, this project in Baku stands out as something I’m thoroughly enjoying and it really is a highlight. It’s a privilege to be planning an event that is so important to the country, the people of Baku, and will leave such a lasting legacy to Azerbaijan, as well as sport in Europe.