I sat down with our event organiser Beth Hillman to speak with her about her experience working at The Roundabouts, the difficulties she has faced within the events industry during COVID-19, the changes she made, and advice she has for anyone looking to get involved in the industry.
How long have you been event coordinator and have been organising the Roundabouts?
I’ve been organising The Roundabouts since 2016 so around 5 years now.
What do you enjoy most about your job? The community. It’s such a good feeling when you speak to people who regularly attend our events and who you know really gain a lot from not only the talks but from the discussion created during networking.
How has Covid-19 affected the roundabouts? What have you done differently because of it? It’s been a rough year and a half for in-person events! Our last one was in February 2020 at Natwest’s office in Liverpool Street and we had about 100 people attend - the atmosphere was incredible! There was lots of food and drink flowing and just a great buzz in general throughout the networking and talks. Soon after things took a drastic turn (as you know) and we had to cancel our March event. At the time I think we were waiting for it all to blow over so that we could return to events as usual, but as things progressed we realised that doing an in-person event was simply out of the question. That’s when we began looking at doing our first online Agile Roundabout, which we did on Zoom in June 2020. Since then we have moved events to our Youtube channel and continue to put on monthly events for our Agile community with really interesting speakers and topics – but I really miss the networking element as I’m sure a lot of people do. From a recent survey I put out, I think the plan going forward will definitely be to return to in-person events but we can’t ignore the advantages of having our events online and extending the reach to people who can’t attend in person. Our mission has always been to facilitate knowledge sharing in tech, so I think having people from all over the world be able to participate is amazing – but we also don’t want to lose another invaluable thing which is the conversations that happen in person.
What’s been your favourite venue for hosting one of The Roundabouts?
That is a tough one! I always loved the events at Amazon’s HQ because we could host up to 300 people and that was so cool! But there are so many other places I loved. News UK had an amazing panoramic view from London Bridge; our event at Global was on their roof terrace on a scorcher of a day which was so fun. Bloomberg had these really fancy canapes and drinks! Very sadly I missed the event at TFL’s Transport Museum but I’m told that was pretty special so I hope we can do another one there! What is the most challenging part of your job, and how have you overcome these obstacles? The most challenging part is before the event begins! When the speakers begin talking I breathe a sigh of relief. Event organising is all about balancing the little things and thinking ahead to any potential hiccup that can disrupt the flow of getting the speakers in front of your audience. Sometimes those hiccups can be completely unavoidable like random tech issues or pandemics but if you can try and think ahead to make it goes as smooth as possible then you’re on to a winner!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get involved in the events industry?
My advice would be to make your life easier by being so thorough beforehand that nothing can surprise you and bite you in the behind. But also to be kind to yourself when the pressure mounts and try to stay calm! You won’t solve any issues or think on your feet if you’re panicking but you can be a hero if you’re more relaxed. Each event will teach you new things so make note of that and keep learning.
What are your plans for the future for the Roundabouts? I’ve touched on this a little bit to be clear… we’re planning on a “hybrid” model. Sorry, I’m sure anyone reading this is as sick of that word as they are “exponential” and “unprecedented”. But I think that’s the way to go at least for now. I’d like to think we could do our first in-person event later in the year, if not in the new year, and then alternate on a monthly basis between in-person and virtual events. It’s something we will always be reviewing and if it doesn’t work we will adapt and listen to our community.
If you are interested in speaking at one of our events or would like to learn more about our wonderful community get in touch with Beth today, Bhillman@trg-uk.com