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Getting To Know Sally Simonds
Meet Sally Simonds. Currently the Director of Events at The Venue Alexandria Sally has worked all over the world, from Ireland to the UK, to Dubai and Australia. She’s a hard working, gets-stuff-done type, which possibly explains her ideal dinner guest…
Having played a big part in organising the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Sydney, Sally has some great advice for those starting out in the events industry. So join us as we get to know another fabulous event pro, Sally Simonds…
Give us a snap shot of your career to date.
My career has taken me from one side of the world to the other. I always enjoy staying in hotels, so it made sense for my first job to be as a receptionist in a hotel, followed by a receptionist in a conference centre. I soon realised that I wanted to organise the conferences so transferred into an event co-ordinator role. A move to Ireland landed me a job at Guinness Storehouse organising events. After a few years returned to the UK and did Venue Finding – a change from planning events to sourcing venues. I then decided I wanted to work overseas and secured an event role at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai. Next stop was Australia where I have achieved an Events Executive Role at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, Event Manager Dockside, Conference Sales Manager Pullman Melbourne on the Park, Director of Events at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth followed by Director of Events at The Westin Sydney and that brings me to today as Director of Events at The Venue Alexandria.
The most memorable event you have worked on and why?
The G20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Sydney. This was a high profile event which took 18 months of planning, many site inspections and working with many stakeholders to bring the event together. I had many meetings with the AFP and local police, if people did not know what I was doing, it would come across that I was in lots of trouble!
I was there from the initial walk-in site inspection, to negotiating the contract, event managing and being on-site for the client for the 7 days of the event. Overall it was a huge success and by far the biggest event I had been part of and enjoyed bringing the event to life.
What did you ‘learn the hard way’ when planning an event?
Make sure you always confirm suppliers prior to the event even if you have not booked them directly, you don’t want those last-minute stresses worrying if the photographer, decorators or band are going to turn up.
What are three personality traits that are required to succeed in the events industry?
Patience, Passion, Team Player
If you could share one piece of advice to those starting out in the industry what would it be?
Give it a go, there are so many different areas within the industry, try different jobs to see what you enjoy, have no regrets, you don’t want to be thinking ‘what if’.
What song always gets you on the dance floor?
Last Dance – Donna Summer
What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Moving to Australia by myself and not knowing if I would find a job that would allow me to stay in this amazing country. It paid off; I’ve been here nearly 14 years!
What superpower would you choose and why?
Be Invisible, I can then listen to other people’s conversations without them knowing. I’ve always been told I’m nosey!
What skill or talent would you most like to learn and why?
To play the piano. When I see someone playing at the piano, it always looks effortless and I always think how good it would be to be able to play a few well-known tunes.
What can you not live without in your life?
My partner, family and friends
How do you unwind after a big event?
A large glass of wine and bit of reality TV.
Words to live by?
Have no regrets, take opportunities as they come up, you never know where it may take you.
Catalina, Rose Bay – Lovely setting, great food, service always consistent
What do you prefer, cocktail party or sit-down dinner?
Sit Down Dinner
What’s your drink of choice at an event?
Champagne (not sparkling!) or if not, a glass of Chardonnay
Who would you love to invite to dinner (past or present)?
Why do you love your job?
Every event is different, so I like the variety it provides. But it’s the people that I work with that makes me love the job that I do.