Getting to know Harry Whelan

It’s time to meet another fabulous event professional – introducing Harry Whelan, Senior Event Coordinator at Optus. If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Harry at an event, you will know that he has the charismatic presence that comes from being a born entertainer. Creative, driven and hard-working, Harry is a true industry professional who always puts in 110%, to produce fun and purposeful events for the staff of Optus – all 10,000 of them! So join with us as we get to know this month's Event Birdie Pro, Harry Whelan...

Give us a snap shot of your career to date.  Harry Whelan - Senior Event Coordinator, Optus

My first role was working on the Sydney Royal Easter Show coordinating the volunteer program. Having enjoyed this experience I got my first real events job as an Account Coordinator with a small agency running a portfolio of events from conferences to roadshows. After a couple of year’s working agency side I decided to make the move to corporate side so I could further develop and grow. I applied for a job at Optus as the Campus Event Coordinator and got the job! Since joining Optus I have worked on a variety of events from product launches to celebrity visits and I can tell you that no week is the same. 
I have now been at Optus for over 5 years and currently hold the position of Senior Event Coordinator where I oversee employee experience events for over 10,000 people across the country. 

Harry Whelan - Optus events

The most memorable event you have worked on and why?

I’d have to say Ducati Turismo 2007 - I travelled for 5 days with over 350 motorcyclist enthusiasts on a road trip from Albury to Thredbo. This was my first real events gig and even though at the time I had no idea what Ducati was I soon became immersed with this beautiful European motorcycle brand. Overall it was just a great event to work on with great people and an event I will always remember. 

What did you ‘learn the hard way’ when planning an event?

Having 4 blenders going at the same time from one 10amp outlet doesn’t work and it’s even worse when it’s in front of a live audience and a timed challenge. You only make that mistake once! 

What are three personality traits that are required to succeed in the events industry?

- A can do attitude – happy to push a trolley around and get your hands dirty
- Quick thinker – when things go down you can work out a resolution to fix it
- Approachable – you’re the person that people can go to for advice and assistance

If you could share one piece of advice to those starting out in the industry what would it be?

Networking is key - get out there and get along to industry events and volunteer. It’s a hard industry to break into and knowing people helps.

What song always gets you on the dance floor?

September by Earth Wind & Fire, my best moves come out when it’s played.

Describe yourself in two words?

Outgoing and creative 

How do you unwind after a big event?

A wine glass with champagne (preferably French if on hand haha) 

What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Trying to decide what this year’s Christmas party theme is… 

Where do you go for creative inspiration?

Pinterest, traveling and keeping up to date with styling/event trends through industry blogs/newsletters.

What’s your drink of choice at an event?

Champagne, you can generally never go wrong with this choice even with a standard beverage package

Best event styling tip?

Keep it simple, you don’t always need to over style/decorate everything. Having a signature installation or feature can have a wow factor and save you money in your budget.

What is the craziest request you have ever had when planning an event?

A certain celebrity as part of their rider wanted a packet of M&M’s sorted by colour into different bowls.

Why do you love your job?

I get to be creative and think outside the box and do events that you wouldn’t normally do in a corporate environment, plus I have a big sand pit (the Optus Campus) to play within.

If you weren’t working in events what would you do?

I’d have to work in a creative role so probably interior decoration or styling.