Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Gareth Gallagher of EVT Media Is Helping To Change Our…

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Gareth Gallagher of EVT Media Is Helping To Change Our World

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable

There are times when you will have to make uncomfortable decisions, perhaps you need to let someone go because your cash flow isn’t there. This is been one of my hardest lessons in business, hence why you need to be comfortable with making uncomfortable decisions.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gareth Gallagher.

Gareth Gallagher is an accomplished Senior Event and Marketing Executive sought by small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike. He has worked in the events industry for twenty-four years; worked in forty-two countries, and lived in seven; and has flown around the world more than twenty times running events. Gareth’s experience includes working with companies such as Google, Apple and RocketSpace; dignitaries such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Mike Milken; and celebrities such as Jess J, Cher, Lulu and Steve Aoki.

He started his working life in 1998 with UK agencies before heading to New York in 2005. After the death of his mother in 2007 he returned to the UK and six months later relocated to Asia. He eventually returned to the United States, where he started his own company based in Singapore, London and San Francisco — growing the agency to $10 million in revenue with a baseline of 25 staff and 150 contractors. Gareth has over two and half decades event management experience and has executed events from ten-people incentive programs to 150,000-person medical conventions.

He has developed and implemented industry crisis management plans from his experience of running events in adverse conditions, and was the first solopreneur to build a global events agency: winning clients such as Google and Apple, and running their largest events in Asia-Pacific.

Gareth knows the pains of both the planner role and an industry built on the back of a fag (cigarette) packet. He got clean and sober at the age of thirty-six and is in recovery now from a lifelong addiction to alcohol and drugs as well as an eating disorder.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am one of four children, I grew up in the UK, and all of us went to boarding school from a very early age. Growing up, I always wanted to be a musician, I played the piano, saxophone, and flute. I had no desire to work in Events but I fell into this career when at the age of 16 I was not well and did not play a musical instrument for over a year. Being away from my family during my school had a great effect on me. We were a typical upper class family in the UK, where we had the big house, the cars, the parents with big jobs and their own businesses yet inside the house was dysfunction and abuse. It was like keeping up with the Joneses, where everything looked picture perfect on the outside and yet inside it was the hall of terror. My parents had a very up and down relationship, abuse and violence and yet here we were as this upper class family.

After I didn’t play for a year, I went to work for a marketing agency Cold calling trying to get people to go to these events. A girl in the Events team was really stressed and walked out and my boss walked into the room and asked if anyone wanted to travel to Europe for three months running these events with two guys — I jumped at the chance. This is how I fell into events. I traveled around Europe running these networking events teaching businesses how to build a network and install the internet into their company. I am clearly showing my age…

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav was my most important book. I also loved publications and quotes from Mark Twain.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Are mistakes truly funny? I guess it is about perception. I have made many mistakes throughout my life and my career however I can honestly say looking back over all of them, they have been my greatest teachers.

I remember working on an event for a major pharmaceutical company when we were running an awards trip to Monaco the south of France. Being young and naïve and new in the industry, I had booked the wrong flights for the managing Director and his wife returning back to the UK. We were so busy running the event, I had forgotten to send the flights directly to him and his executive assistant, to check the details and make the assumption everything was ok when it was not.

I ended up having to put them on standby on a flight and sit with him at the airport. This was an embarrassing experience to say the least, as it meant that they had to arrange extra care for their kids back in the UK, who were unable to come on the trip and sat at the airport for hours to get on the flight. I learned a very valuable lesson, always have someone check your work when dealing with sleep deprivation and VIPs. Luckily they were very understanding but I can still see us all sat at the airport to this day.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

I really hope that my book, Eventually Gareth will be a force for change in the industry. I’ve spent years trying to help clients not only be sustainable, but to understand the importance of the human spirit, and working with event planners. I hope the book will show that without the event planner, the client doesn’t have an event, and that we should be seen as an extension of their team and as important as the event itself.

I really hope that my book Eventually Gareth will have significant impact on the way the event planners work with their clients. I talk heavily in the book about unhealthy eating behaviors and how over 2 1/2 decades this caused major problems with my eating habits always eating on the run, eating unhealthy food, and Feeling less then because we didn’t eat while the clients were eating. It’s like being upstairs and downstairs in the house, downstairs were eating rice and beans, and yet upstairs that eating that filet mignon this Has to stop, this can significantly impact a human interaction with food and their belief system about how was your day off. I really hope this is a major take away from my book.

Clients spend so much money branding a stage, creating the look and feel and often carpeting yet it means nothing without the message. It can look great, however the most important message is what comes from the person speaking. Clients don’t know how to place measurable ROI on certain areas and look and feeling, styling in essence is one of them. Clients should look at being more sustainable in all areas not just one such as the carpet on the stage or the back drop material they use.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

There are many interesting stories in the book, both personal and professional. One of my favorite stories is the Russian blackmail I experienced when I was running an event in Russia. We had over indulged in Russian tradition after my colleague and I had whistle blown on a Russian prostitute ring in the bar of this 5 star hotel we were staying in. Little did we know the people in the bar were senior management from the hotel who were pimping out the prostitutes. We got into an argument in the bar when we didn’t get the service we wanted and made accusations of this prostitution ring. That evening my colleague and I went off to visit more restaurants and to a borsch soup workshop at our colleagues house where we indulged in Russian Vodka. When we got back to the hotel, we were so sick, we vomited in the hotel lobby and lift. We then left Russia and went to the global office of the hotel chain to make a complaint and whilst we did this, our local agent in St Petersburg informed us the hotel General Manager had photos of us projectile vomiting in the lift and if we did not drop our complaint, he would go to the press. It was very stressful and then our board directors became involved in the conflict.

Read the book for what happens next when we return back to the hotel a month later for a peacemaker breakfast !

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

After a 2 decade battle with drugs and alcohol and working in an industry driven by excess I knew it was my time to speak out about my personal story. Lets face it, I have been through the ringer in the industry and there are few people who have experience of being in multiple bombings, an earthquake and a cyclone executing events for thousands of people. Alongside my personal battle, I have been given incredible experience in crisis management and how to cope under extremely stressful situations. Meeting planners are extremely unprepared for adverse events or have the relevant experience and there are a high % who don’t have the right protection with areas such as insurance..

The book also came about because of the depth of my personal battle with food, alcohol and drugs and how the industry has little support for those who are struggling.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Since I have been talking about the book and have written about my experience with food, particularly in the industry, my peer groups are starting to realize the importance of ensuring the teams are treated exactly the same way as clients treat their attendees. I’m hoping if anything comes out of my book this is a force for change around the unhealthy eating behaviors of event planners, and what this can do psychologically over the long-term.

One industry colleague has already started to go back to clients and say we will not have our staff be treated less than what you treat attendees. Clients do really need to understand it without us; they don’t have an event, we are as important as attendees. This is a significant step forward, I hope all meeting planners will start to respond similarly.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Mental Health for those working in Entertainment and Events. There is limited, if any support in our industry for those affected by the condition of working in this industry and a huge lack of understanding about what really goes on behind the scenes and into every event. People don’t understand the pressure any event planner is under and I am hoping my book will showcase where change is needed. Agencies, companies and clients should be more supportive to the needs of the planners and entertainment people who are working on projects, which require long hours and copious amounts of stress.
  2. Crisis Management and Preparation. As an industry community, I still believe there is a lot more we should be doing with crisis management and due diligence. We are in a time where the world is vulnerable and volatile. Anything can happen as we saw years ago with the Las Vegas shooting. Yet event planners lack knowledge and understanding what to do in these situations, which are often life threatening. This general ethos of it will never happen to me is I believe dangerous. I have been in 3 bombs, an earthquake and a cyclone where I was looking after 100’s or 1000’s of people and with this comes duty of care. Part of my next step from the book is a crisis management, conference, and training where we will teach industry professionals and business leaders the importance of ensuring their teams are set up for success. For any form of crisis, be a human, or an act of God.
  3. Nutritional Healthcare. This is a subject I cover a lot in my book and the need for meeting planners, clients and agencies to really comprehend the damage that can occur with unhealthy eating behaviors in our industry. This is not just an industry issue, this is a global issue — taking time for lunch for example and ensuring the food consumed is sustainable for productivity rather than the opposite. I have run many jobs where the client provides heavy carb loaded dishes, breads and sandwiches, chocolates and sugary drinks / sweets as the crew meals when their guests are eating the best salads, proteins and filet of beef. Not only is there a healthy concern here, it is mental health concern creating a them and us scenario which will affect the individual’s value system.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is a form of management without the day to day. I think the best description of a leader is not the person who makes it to the top of the mountain, it is the person who gets to the top and heads back down to help others up. This is what leadership is all about. Sharing experience with others in order for others to learn and grow along the path whilst you are all sharing the same vision of reaching the top. Common goals rather than individual ones. In this case the vision is clear, everyone should reach for the top but how, when and even why are the individual goals. Leaders might not always be liked, however they should always be respected and this comes from allowing others to have autonomy and be heard and seen.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

1 . How hard is it to obtain clients where there is mutual trust in the industry.

We are in an industry where today, it’s even harder to find clients than normal. Clients in our industry. Take time to trust event planners, these aren’t generally people you can go online and find overnights. It takes months, if not years of building relationships.

2 . Don’t mix business with pleasure

Never mix business with pleasure, I have made this mistake on many many occasions. Every time it has gone wrong. If you do mix business and pleasure, it’s so important to have written agreements, and contracts, executed and signed before you even agree to do work.

3 . Get comfortable with the uncomfortable

There are times when you will have to make uncomfortable decisions, perhaps you need to let someone go because your cash flow isn’t there. This is been one of my hardest lessons in business, hence why you need to be comfortable with making uncomfortable decisions.

4 . Due diligence and never work without a contract

It sounds pretty obvious, however, I have run multiple projects even with some of the biggest tech companies in the world that have taken 18 months to give you a contract and pay you. Our ethos is never now to work without a contract and a deposit. Ensure you due your research on the right insurance you need for your business, otherwise you can make costly mistakes.

5 . Mentors and the importance of not reinventing the wheel

Find someone who’s been there before you and work with them to mentor you. Whenever I’ve been the most successful in life, it’s because I’ve had somebody guide me. There is no need in today’s world to reinvent the world with anything, someone has been there and done that no matter how unique or special you may think your services are.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Mark Twain — the two most important days of your life, the day you are born and the day you find out why.

This quote has been important to me since a very early age because it shows that we just are not in control of what happens. The measurement of success in life is not how much money we have, watch out we’ve held, our cars are houses, it’s how much we’ve loved.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Brene Brown — An absolute legend and fellow sober member of life with incredible story telling skills. Secretly hoping Brene will read my book and find it relatable

Russell Brunson, he is an awesome entrepreneur who has built systems and tools to better the lives of others. One of life’s true business inspirations, a father as well as a leader.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Instagram: Gallagher_Gareth


This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Gareth Gallagher of EVT Media Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.