VSA Future Hosts Global Speech with Event Manager Nick Gaertner
What does it take to organize a birthday party? You’ll need to book a venue, purchase decorations and food, invite guests, and do a load of other things. Now, picture organizing one of the world’s most preeminent music festivals, with over 70,000 attendants per day and featuring world-famous artists like Billie Eilish and Khalid. That’s exactly where someone like Nick Gaertner comes in.
This past Friday, VSA Future invited Mr. Nick, an event manager for Lollapalooza Berlin, which takes place annually at Berlin’s Olympic stadium, to tell students what it’s like managing such an event and all the types of team members involved. It certainly isn’t easy!
What Does an Event Manager Do?
Simply stated, an event manager is responsible for making sure that an event runs smoothly and successfully so that everyone has a great time. For Mr. Nick, this means beginning the planning process as early as 14 months in advance. He works with a team of other event managers to communicate with and manage all the staff members. For instance, he makes sure all team members are updated on what needs to be done, what the deadlines are, and what is currently happening. On the day of the event, he communicates directly with all the staff members using walkie talkies.
Musicians and Security and Ticketing, Oh My!
Of course, a music festival needs much more than event managers to take place. VSA students had the chance to hear from Mr. Nick about all the various other people involved. Among them include:
- Musicians: these are the lifeblood of a music festival—they’re the ones people are paying to see! Over 50 bands come to play at Lollapalooza every year. And some even bring along as many as 20 to 30-person teams, including backup dancers and makeup artists, all of whom need to be accommodated.
- Creative director: he or she designs the overall aesthetic of the festival and comes up with ideas to keep everyone entertained, which might include a fireworks display or circus artists on stilts for people to take pictures with.
- Production and logistics: these are the people responsible for the nitty-gritty inner workings of the festival. They set up and build the event’s infrastructure (i.e. tents, lighting) and clean up everything after the musical festival is over. Mr. Nick revealed that the cleanup for Lollapalooza Berlin only took a record 2.5 days and 100 trucks to move the equipment out.
- Security: they ensure that everyone stays safe while having a good time. For instance, they allow people to enter the stadium safely and take care of unexpected events. One time, said Mr. Nick, there was an impending thunderstorm that threatened to cancel the festival, so he and the other event organizers met with the heads of security to figure out how to usher the festival-goers to shelter during the thunderstorm.
- Finance and sponsoring: there’s no doubt that organizing a music festival is highly expensive. A popular band can be paid as much as 300,000 Euros for playing only 90 minutes! To cover these costs, organizers must find sponsors who can in exchange paste their logos on posters and apparel. Mr. Nick noted that they work on a budget of 10-15 million Euros with a goal of making 500 million Euros.
- Ticketing: they make sure people get their tickets so that they can attend the festival.
- Food and beverages: just like a birthday party, people are going to be hungry. At Lollapalooza Berlin, there are over 80 different food stands offering food from all over the world.
- Marketing: they help to publicize the event by producing television ads and posters to attract festival-goers.
- Volunteers: last but not least, a music festival receives plenty of help from volunteers who help with a range of activities, from lifting heavy equipment backstage to selling merchandise.
The Path to Becoming an Event Manager
When asked what led him to become an event manager, Mr. Nick answered that he originally started out working in the hotel industry. Within the industry, he was already organizing events like business meetings and soon became interested in organizing larger events. He reached out to local companies in the event managing field and was able to intern at one for 3 months to gauge his interest. He liked it so much that he stayed with the company and the rest is history. He was drawn by the fact that there were so many moving parts to organizing an event, making no day the same.
For current students who are interested in the field, Mr. Nick recommended, “[exposing] yourself to what you like.” Go to an event to get a firsthand experience. He said that signing up to volunteer at a local festival is a great way to enter the field as you can witness what it’s like working backstage and talk to people already working in the industry.
Thank you Mr. Nick for teaching us about being an event manager!