We are so excited to feature Christian Eckardt on Event Birdie. Mainly because we love his European charm, great advice and interesting career path… Currently the Events Manager at the gorgeous Residences Centennial Park, Christian is someone who lives and breathes events. So take a moment to get to know Christian a little better…
Give us a snap shot of your career to date.
I started my career in hospitality working as waiter, chef, and barman in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. This was my first glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes and showed me the basic ‘dos’ and ‘do nots’ I still rely on when planning events twenty years on. After I had completed my studies I was offered a rare opportunity to manage a beautiful European 18th century villa in Leipzig – the new German art metropole. This villa was in its original condition untouched by today’s modern world. We ran breathtaking events such as roaring 1920’s gala balls, James Bond parties, luxury fashion shows and stately weddings. It was an unforgettable venue that ignited my relentless appetite for untraditional venues that could nurture creativity and breed excitement in my clients.
Luckily for me, I’ve worked at six incredible venues since those villa days. The most interesting ones being an artificial island located inside an open pit mine filled with water! A restored fire brigade station in Munich and my current role at The Residences – Sydney’s first private parkland homes in the heart of Centennial Park.
The most memorable event you have worked on and why?
The event industry is fun, but the days can be long. After some years, I decided it was time for a career change and accepted a position as an English teacher in Cairo. While teaching, I met two amazingly talented colleagues, an Egyptian composer and a Ukrainian dancer. We started chatting and before I knew it my ‘event-brain’ was switched on again. Together, we produced a childrens’ ballet for the opening of the new school campus. At the time of the ballet’s world premiere, that campus was a construction site in New Cairo, a city in the middle of the dessert. We had a 150 kids aged between 3 to 16 years as dancers, singers, narrators, set designer etc. It was an amazing experience to witness the joy and enthusiasm of the children amidst the barren dessert setting.
What did you ‘learn the hard way’ when planning an event?
My job allows me to work in many different venues around the world. I love working with different people and learning about new cultures. To be honest, it is a fascinating and challenging experience at times. I had to work on my German- influenced concept of being on time and adapt it to the cultures I have lived in. If you want to get a delivery on time, you just add between 30min to 12 hrs, depending on where you live.
What are three personality traits you think are required to succeed in the events industry?
a. Be a multi-tasker
Often there is more than one event on at a time, and multi-tasking is a must-have to succeed in this industry. E.g. imagine answering a phone call from a lost supplier trying to find the venue, as you’re pouring guests’ wine, while your client needs your event decorating expertise to rescue her collapsing flower wall!
b. Be determined
You’ll need this to soldier through the late night set-ups while you feel exhausted from the wedding and Bar Mitzvah from the night before! It does pay off, and your client will love you for it!
c. Be relaxed
No matter how well you’ve planned an event, something always goes a little pear-shaped! Remember, there is solution but it will only come to you if you relax and stay calm.
If you could share one piece of advice to those starting out in the industry what would it be?
Just get out there. It’s not new advice, but it’s a philosophy I really believe in. If you want to be a successful event planner then practical experience will teach you much more than anything you learn throughout your studies. It’s that simple. Get up and get experience. The more events you organise the better you will be. Experience is all that counts!
If you could plan an event anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
I would pick a place where the sun always shines and there is no chance of rain, wind, or torrential storms! This would be my ultimate venue choice because I wouldn’t need a contingency plan for wet-weather and brides would love me!
How do you unwind after a big event?
I like to go to the beach or hiking – definitely somewhere outside with friends, far away from popular venues and events. Somewhere quiet usually does the trick!
Words to live by?
Are you happy? Keep going.
Are you not happy? Change something.
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
Always searching for the new challenge!
Where do you go for creative inspiration?
I get ideas and inspiration from nature. I love to hike. My favourite day hike in Sydney is Otford to Bundeena. I can’t get enough of that coastline!
Monopole in Potts Point. It is the perfect balance of incredible food, in a casual setting.
When entertaining at home what do you cook?
A roast. It’s easy and tasty. It is ready with little effort giving me time to be socialising instead of slaving in the kitchen for hours and hours.
Best event you’ve been to as a guest?
My best friend’s wedding in Sardinia, Italy. She married the owner of the village’s restaurant. The wedding went for 4 days, there were 600 guests, and a 40 metre meat spit.
What do you prefer, cocktail party or sit-down dinner?
It depends. If I’m planning the event I love setting up and styling a sit down dinner – who doesn’t love a good Downton Abbey dinner table!
If I’ve been invited to an event, I love a cocktail party. It’s so much easier to move around, chat and even dance!
What’s your drink of choice at an event?
A vodka tonic first, later substituted by water – it looks the same!
Best event styling tip?
Concentrate on the main big features. Don’t waste time on the small things only you will see!
If you weren’t working in events what would you do?
I would probably be working as an English teacher again, organising one event after the other on the side. It just seems to be my thing!