Interview with Deborah Smith – Senior Event Manager, Keith Prowse

Deborah Smith - Senior Event Manager, Keith ProwseHow did you start your career in the events industry?

My Mum saw an advert in a national newspaper in the summer of 1997 looking for people to sell and market sports events.  I still don’t know why she thought it would be suitable for someone with a music degree, but I have always enjoyed watching sport.  I worked in the telesales team for 3 months and grabbed the opportunity to move into the ops team with both hands.

What does your job involve?

One day I could spend 12 hours looking at spreadsheets of ticket allocations and table plans, and the next I can be in my wellies under an umbrella pacing out the dimensions of a marquee on a difficult build site.  Its variety is one of the things that has kept me interested for so long.  Keith Prowse is the official supplier of hospitality at some of the biggest sports venues so I work very closely with the event organisers, defining the hospitality packages and designing hospitality spaces.

What is your favourite event of the year?

I have to say that it’s the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom, otherwise my friends at The Jockey Club will be miffed.  I love Derby Day and always make sure I take 5 mins to remember the history of event and enjoy the race. A very close second is the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club. I worked on this event in the 2000s when it was the Artois Championships so I have keenly followed its transformation over the last few years..

How do you ensure Keith Prowse hospitality is set apart from the rest?

I’m not one for clichés but the devil’s in the detail – we look at everything that our guests experience, from the information that is available to them before the event, to their arrival in their hospitality area and the staff that greet them, to the music that is played, the seating allocations, and the food and drink that are offered.  All of the suppliers we work with are incredibly talented and supportive so the vision we have for each event is a shared one.

Keith Prowse give people a unique experience of an event that they would never otherwise have. How do you achieve this?

We listen to our customers.  Understanding what they want and why they book hospitality is hugely important.  Hospitality has changed a great deal in my 20+ years.  When I started middle-aged men were booking a table for 10 guests at the cricket or rugby. Hospitality was a formal dining experience and a ticket for a sporting or cultural event.  Over the years the demographic has changed significantly, with more young people and women choosing hospitality to nurture their business relationships.  Identifying this change has led to the growth of informal hospitality, where our guests can relax and feel comfortable in an environment that is more familiar to them.

You have a very high-pressured job. When you get time off what do you do to relax?

I like to plan holidays and walk – ideally at the same time.  If I could spend every weekend in the Lake District I would be very happy, and quite a bit fitter!  Walking is good for the mind and I’m sure it helps me cope with the pressure in the build up to an event.

What do you see as the future of the event industry?

I’m sure we’ll continue to see an increase in informal experiences with tech innovation generating scope for interactive and immersive experiences.  When I started we didn’t use the word experience – it’s hard to know what words will be using in another 20 years.

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