Paul Smith runs the Conference and Banqueting Department at the Tortworth Four Pillars Hotel near Bristol. His job involves meeting and working with hundreds of people every week.
What are your responsibilities?
My role is to arrange and supervise a number of different events. I organise wedding receptions and am often called upon to introduce the speakers at the reception as well. I organise corporate conferences and dinners which can often have up to 400 guests.
There are fourteen staff in my team, although there can be as many as 40 staff working on a lunch or dinner. All of these staff work under my direction. I also prepare rotas for my team, who work in nine hour shifts.
How do you prepare for these events?
A conference might involve setting up overhead projectors, screens and flipcharts, tables and chairs.We can do this ourselves, but if clients want to stage or theme their events, we use an outside company. For instance, one client staged a gala dinner where the room had to be fitted out in black – including the carpet, curtains and, even the chairs.
We have to provide a service to produce an environment which fits the clients' needs.
Do you work unsociable hours?
Yes, as many of the functions can occur in the evenings and at weekends. It is not uncommon for the department to be staffed from 7am right through to 3am the following morning, and we have to organise various shift and rota systems to accommodate this.
Why did you choose this job as a Conference organiser?
I did two years of initial training with the Four Pillars Group in their three and four star hotels. I worked in different departments, including reception, the restaurant, housekeeping and the kitchen. I decided to specialise in conference and banqueting because it is not office-bound and every day is different. I would like to take my leadership skills onto the next level by managing a larger department.
What skills and qualities are needed?
You need to be diplomatic and able to delegate. My job involves a lot of liaison between guests, other departments in the hotel and outside parties. You have to be able to work well as part of a team and be well presented, even at the end of a long night.
Paul's route to becoming a Conference organiser
- Advanced GNVQ (now AVCE or vocational A level) Hospitality and Catering at college.
- Hotel Management training scheme with current employer.
Paul's Conference organiser tips
- Attend college to gain qualifications.
- Get a part-time job in the trade, such as in a bar or restaurant.
Conference organiser related jobs
- Catering/restaurant manager
- Entertainment manager
- Exhibitions organiser
- Marketing manager
- Public relations officer
Conference organiser salary information
- This will depend on the size of the establishment.
- A starting salary for a junior or trainee would be in the region of £12,000.
- A more experienced and senior hotel conference manager could expect up to £30,000.
Becoming a Conference organiser
- Previously, many people worked their way up in the hotel industry, but now entrants tend to have a degree, postgraduate, HNC/HND or Edexcel BTEC/ SQA or vocational A level/GSVQ qualification. Relevant courses include Hotel and Catering Management, Hospitality Management and Conference and Event Management.
- Many Hotel Conference managers specialise after completing a hotel management training scheme, taking courses tailored to their particular developmental needs. This may lead to NVQs/SVQs or a Hotel and Catering International Management Association (HCIMA) Certificate or Diploma.
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