Shana Sexton, Lime Venue Portfolio's marketing placement student provides a wonderful insight into her recent experience of working with Payne and Gunter at the BRIT Awards 2016 and the importance of development in all areas of the industry for aspiring meetings and events professionals.


Lights, camera, action. The BRIT Awards never fail to amaze and what an opportunity it was to be working behind the scenes, learning about the mass-operation of catering for over 4,000 guests in a space of 90 minutes. What does it take to deliver this? Over 600 front of house staff, 50 chefs and over 6 months of planning by a highly experienced operations team.


As a marketing executive for Lime Venue Portfolio, my role is to promote and sell the venues event space long before the event takes place. A huge interest of mine is event management, so I jumped at the chance to work alongside Payne and Gunter at this iconic event. Year after year I find myself glued to the TV screen during the awards, so you could understand how excited I felt to be in the arena, serving the biggest names in the music industry. 


Going beyond the glitz and the glam of the BRITs, what really did interest me was what occurs behind the curtain to create this seemingly flawless operation. The procedures from set up to clear down, the management hierarchies, training and briefing staff, ensuring that everyone is in the correct place at the correct time, and most importantly, the guest journey. Many people forget the time and energy that is put into every detail. Hats off to Payne and Gunter; they exude professionalism and their calm control gives them the ability to handle whatever situation may head their way. It is easy to understand why they have been chosen to cater at this event for the past twelve years. 


 I didn’t hold back with getting stuck in to my newly appointed role as ‘wine waiter’. During the set up day, I was trained and briefed alongside the five other head wine waiters. I thoroughly enjoyed having to think on my feet and use my initiative in this new situation. Within the first fifteen minutes of set up, I had advised our small team on the most effective way to work out what equipment we needed for the number of tables remaining.


Issues do arise, it’s inevitable: unannounced closed set rehearsals that prevent the team from completing set up; equipment that does not arrive in the allocated time slot; champagne bottles that haven’t chilled to the correct temperature (heaven forbid that Simon Cowell has mediocre glass of bubbly!); and people arriving late, jeopardising the flow of dinner service. It is how to overcome these obstacles as a team that is truly inspirational.


The set up day went by quicker than a blink of an eye, as I set up and absorbed every piece of information that was given. Of course, there was the occasional distraction – I would be lying if I said it was easy to ignore Adele, Little Mix and The Weekend appearing on stage for their tech rehearsals! Providing you keep your head down and multi-task well, you can subtly enjoy the performance before the public, which is a special moment in itself.


Wednesday 24th February, the day of the BRIT Awards 2016. I could immediately sense a considerably faster pace as final preparations were in full swing and large numbers of additional staff arrived. I was designated the role of looking after the MasterCard tables and circling the arena to lend a helping hand where needed. I thrive on interacting with new people and have always enjoyed hosting, so this position was welcomed with open arms, ‘Yes Mr David (Craig), of course I can get you some more champagne!’ 



After preparing the welcome drinks, I moved into the arena, ready to greet the VIP’s. My evening was spent weaving between the tables, ensuring the alcohol was flowing (responsibly!) and that everyone was having a good time. The majority of waiters finish after dinner service and from there the head waiters are on hand at the side lines, ready to dart in during advert breaks to take orders. I enjoyed watching the show from the side-lines with five minute bursts of sprinting to and from the cellar with bottles in hand. My feet were cramping beneath me, but it was worth every moment of discomfort (I slept well that night!).


So what did I learn from my BRITs experience? Firstly, at these large-scale events there isn’t someone there to hold your hand every step of the way. Stick to your training, use your initiative and remain hospitable to every guest that enters the room. Teamwork and clear communication are key to providing a smooth service.  


Most importantly, for someone working in the events industry, it’s important to understand all elements of the process from the roots up. By experiencing the events first-hand, you can learn about what the customer’s journey and how the event is planned and executed on the day with a cherry on top. All event planning should start from the end: what does the guest want and how can we tailor our offering to create an exceptional experience for them? So much time, effort, thought, consideration, planning, preparation and love is put into events like this and being on the floor amongst the end-user gave me the greatest insight possible into why every tiny detail is so critical to the overall success. From here, you naturally develop your ideas to provide a greater experience in future.


As a future events industry professional, I now firmly believe that being in the thick of the action at an event is something that we should set time aside for, in order to remain versatile and encourage fresh ideas in everything that we do. My experience at the BRIT Awards was short, yet highly insightful, and I look forward to my next moment where I can play my part in helping to create a better experience from behind the curtain.  


Richard Kadri-Langford (left), Head of Marketing, and Shana Sexton (centre), Marketing Executive, Lime Venue Portfolio

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