Deciding on a course of study for post-secondary education can be challenging, but for Madison Wallinger, the decision to attend University of the Fraser Valley’s (UFV) Hospitality Event Planning Certificate Program was an obvious choice. As the head of student council in high school, she took part in planning many events – fashion shows, overnight tips, and more, enjoying the satisfaction that comes from making sure each event turned out perfectly as planned.
Today, as a recent graduate of the UFV program, Wallinger is already on a path to success. Currently working as an event project manager with the trendy event planning company, Bash and Fete, she says that her education and internship at Culinary Capers in Vancouver is a key to her success. “I did an internship and it allowed me to experience the whole event, and all aspects from the kitchen and reception, to corporate sales and operations management,” says Wallinger.
Her role at Bash and Fete includes planning a variety of events from large corporate and non-profit gala affairs, to elegant private parties and more. “There is never really a typical day being an event planner. Every event is different, and that’s why I love it,” says Wallinger. “On any given day I could be sitting at my desk emailing, on the phone with vendors or clients, doing a site visit, in a committee meeting, or at the event making sure everything is going smoothly.”
But while the dynamic nature of this job is a great fit for Wallinger, it’s not for everyone. Long hours, weekend and evening work hours, and having to be “on” so much of the time can be challenging. “When people start, they can’t believe how much work it is, and it can be overwhelming,” says Wallinger. “Time and stress management is key. Having support from family and friends, and ensuring whenever possible to take time for exercise and sleep helps me to maintain balance.”
Wallinger says that her greatest challenge is making sure everything goes off without a hitch, especially when she has multiple events happening on one day. “You have to delegate at times, so it’s important to know and trust who you delegate to. Then let that go, and let the event unfold into something beautiful. When you have happy clients and guests, that’s my greatest satisfaction.”
As a young professional just starting out, Wallinger admits that her youth has had its challenges. Told by one company they thought that clients wouldn’t take her seriously due to her age, Wallinger didn’t let it get her down, and she sees her age as an asset. “Technology is everything when it comes to trends, doing research, and finding out about the competition,” says Wallinger who uses Instagram, LinkedIn and other social media regularly.
When asked what advice for prospective career seekers, Wallinger suggests volunteering at events, and gaining experience in a sales or customer service role. She says client management and the ability to build strong relationships with clients, sponsors and patrons is really critical in the world of event planning. “On top of all that, find a mentor – learn from them, ask questions and don’t ever pass up opportunities to network.”