Job as an event and exhibition organiser

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Jane Turner is a delegate liaison officer with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). She uses her language skills to talk to the overseas delegates taking part in EU conferences and seminars that are held in the UK.

How would you outline your job as an event and exhibition organiser?

I work in a specialised FCO event planning and logistics team. At present, I am working for the UK Presidency of the G8 group. Each country takes its turn to hold the Presidency for a year. The G8 is a group of leaders from Britain, the US, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Russia and Italy. The leaders meet at regular intervals – called summits – to discuss the world economy and other international issues such as security, health, the environment, poverty and debt.

What are your main responsibilities?

I work closely with other members of the team to plan and organise the many Presidency events throughout the year. These involve ministerial and senior official meetings, as well as the high-profile G8 summit in Scotland. I work with several foreign delegations trying to ensure that their needs are met while they are visiting the UK.

What is your weekly routine?

Basically, I spend my time organising any special requirements that the delegates will have in advance of the meetings. These requests may relate to any aspects of the visit or their leaders to the UK such as transport, accommodation, security and interpretation facilities.

What hours do you work?

I work normal office hours, generally from 9.00am to 6.00pm. However, I may need to work extra hours as the event or meeting approaches.

What's your working environment like?

I work in an open-plan office in a team of about 30 people. The atmosphere is relaxed and professional. Sometimes, I need to visit the event venue and hotels to view all the facilities.

Who do you work with?

I work closely with several other teams within FCO, and with members of other government departments and the public services. A large part of my work is building relationships with foreign nationals from the invited countries.

What special skills do you need for your job as an event and exhibition organiser?

You have to be very practical, organised and outgoing and keep calm under pressure. Delegates are often under a great deal of pressure and you have to deal with their demands and show plenty of understanding. The main thing is having a flexible approach to work as people can change their minds frequently about what they want. Attention to detail is also very important.

How do you make use of your language skills?

Although most of the foreign nationals can speak excellent English, I feel that I can deliver a more personal and attentive service working with these colleagues in their own language. I use Mandarin Chinese in particular in this job to discuss delegation requirements and transact daily business as well as French and Spanish.

What do you like about your job?

I love working with people from different countries and cultures and really enjoy the friendship I have with my colleagues, all of whom have outstanding skills and experience in many different areas.

What are the particular challenges in your work?

Every day represents a challenge. You have to be able to think on your feet and respond to new information and requests quickly and sensibly. You also have to work hard to push forward your ideas and priorities. You should develop strong written and oral communication skills.

How do you see your future?

I would like to keep working with foreign nationals in the UK and overseas. I am keen to develop more specialised knowledge and experience of Asia.

Jane's route to her job as an event and exhibition organiser

  • Degree in Modern Languages.
  • Policy Fast Stream management trainee after graduation.
  • Intensive Mandarin Chinese language training.
  • Posted to Beijing.
  • Now studying part time for a masters in Social Sciences.

Jane's event and exhibition organiser tips

  • Research the different entry routes into the FCO.
  • Try contacting FCO staff for an informal discussion about working procedures and avenues of interest.

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Salary of an event and exhibition organiser

  • Starting salaries at the FCO range from around £14,000 for an administrative assistant to £20,000 for a policy Fast Stream management trainee.
  • After two years, trainees should earn around £30,000 rising to more than £40,000 after progression to senior management level.
  • Salaries are slightly higher in London.

How to become an event and exhibition organiser

  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office runs a work experience scheme for 16 and 17 year olds, which offers students who are interested in working for the FCO and opportunity to gain work experience.
  • Most applicants for the FCO have a degree or postgraduate qualification. Specifically, the policy Fast Track scheme requires a degree, interest in international affairs and the ability to learn languages.
  • Knowledge of languages isn't part of the recruitment and selection process, but the FCO does view language skills as a bonus. Candidates with more difficult languages, like Japanese, Mandarin and Arabic, are especially in demand.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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