Olivia Boswell: Cementing Foundations

outdoor
Heels-boots-NEW-resized.jpg

Olivia Boswell, deputy operations manager for RHS Tatton Park Flower Show on building relationships, from contractors to her own steel-capped boots.

 

The diversity of show operations has never been more apparent to me after having worked at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

 

All can agree that operations cannot simply be seen as the stand-alone glamorous world of tentage and toilets, but is an integral part of all departments in order to achieve an event’s success.


It is the operations team that brings together all the promises and aims made by sponsorship, marketing, press, sales and show managers to blossom into a flower show.


Producing world-renowned flower shows for royal visitors, millions of BBC viewers and 100,000+ visitors is always going to be an incredible project to be a part of. For the RHS being at the pinnacle of the industry with its long-standing reputation and prowess, every year must be better than the last. From the attendance, to the press coverage, to the customer’s satisfaction with the loos – across all departments, we are striving for the same goal.


This diversity is what makes it interesting and keeps us all coming back for more each show season, but the growing scope of areas that operations covers throws a far wider spread of people into the mix.


Not only are you managing the projects, but an increasing variety of people and relationships as well. You find you are dealing with your high profile sponsor one minute, celebrity gardeners, BBC TV crews, politicians and royals and Bob the Builder the next. (No really, we have a builder named Bob). All of whom have different requirements, different ways of working and different ways to be approached. The skill of adapting to a situation quickly is paramount to the role of ops, but equally so is adapting to the person.


I found that the Chelsea Show week symbolised this rather nicely, transforming from weeks wearing an RHS Show t-shirt and steel-capped boots to floral dresses and stilettos in show week, ready to greet Her Majesty the Queen. Yet, after the Royal Open, heading back to the hotel, I found only my steel-capped boots to change into. While this was a very fetching outfit, I did feel it rather nicely represented the role of operations in a show. There are those that make it show week – the smart, beautiful and perfect event that everyone sees – but underneath making it all happen there is a pair of steel-capped boots.


It is the relationships with these steel-capped boots that I feel are the most important. At the end of the build-up process, it is not only the pride of seeing what was once your CAD plan and last year of planning, but what you achieved all together; perfectly ready for the dress and heels of the organisation to make it flourish into a show.


There is such a feeling of achievement, not only for having created something really rather beautiful, but also knowing you have rubbed alongside each other for six intense weeks, from field to flower show, in order to create it.


The role and the process of putting on a show can sometimes prove to be stressful at times for all those involved. If I were to write a risk assessment for the social aspects of the build and break down of a show, the combination of outdoor work at the mercy of the elements, over 25 groups of contractors working and living onsite at one time, constant negotiation between these groups and long hours could potentially seem a volatile mix. However, the extent of teamwork between contractors and operation team is always amazing. While you must adapt to a variety of different people, you must depend on your relationships with your contractors.


From my experiences at the RHS, where I have been lucky enough to work across Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Park Flower Shows, it is the ability to work in an environment of open communication and transparency with one another that makes this work. If this culture were not in place, the structure of an event would crumble.


The foundations of each show are built on these reliable and successful relationships. You will always need every team of contractors to go above and beyond, and every time they do. While the role of operations is diverse in how far its scope stretches, it is the relationships with the steel-capped boots that make it happen for the whole show and all departments that depend on it. And if this was not the case, I imagine you would go to Tatton Park and find a very lonely me standing in a very lonely field with herds of deer and a dahlia, waiting for the Queen in my stilettos.

Olivia Boswell
Posted by Olivia Boswell
PopularComments
Twitter Facebook Google+ LinkedIn

Related Stories

NOEA launches Futures Forum white paper

The National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) and GL events have released the industry’s first-ever white paper concerned with the future of outdoor events.

Kent Event Centre to host its first outdoor cinema experience

Kent Event Centre has announced that it is set to host an alfresco cinema experience with open-air cinema events company, Alfresco Events.

International Confex celebrates record visitors

Mash Media, organiser of International Confex, is celebrating a 35 per cent year-on-year rise in visitor number from 2016.

Others on EN

Apps – what are they good for?

Apps – what are they good for?

Exhibition apps are about as useful as a chocolate teapot, says Reftech’s Simon Clayton.
Fit for the 21st century

Fit for the 21st century

Andrew Harrison, ESSA director, says we should always fight to bring talent into the industry and encourage an appetite for success.
I'm a believer

I'm a believer

Sam Cande, group commercial director at Centaur Media, says no secret sales technique can compete with belief in a product.

CONFEX 2017 LIVE

Most Read Stories

Fit for the 21st century

Fit for the 21st century

Andrew Harrison, ESSA director, says we should always fight to bring talent into the industry and encourage an appetite for success.
I'm a believer

I'm a believer

Sam Cande, group commercial director at Centaur Media, says no secret sales technique can compete with belief in a product.
Lourda Derry: Making the connection

Lourda Derry: Making the connection

Lourda Derry, director of Easyfairs UK addresses the science behind operations and the profile of our audiences.

Latest News

IGNITION to return to the SEC

IGNITION to return to the SEC

Following a successful inaugural event in 2016, IGNITION Festival of Motoring will be returning to the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) on 4-6 August.
Exhibition World launches Global Exhibitions Day Awards

Exhibition World launches Global Exhibitions Day Awards

Exhibition World, the sister magazine of Exhibition News, has launched the inaugural Global Exhibitions Day Awards, celebrating the diverse creative initiatives occurring globally around 7 June.
Future In 15 episode 3: ExCel London's James Rees on co-operation and using space

Future In 15 episode 3: ExCel London's James Rees on co-operation and using space

In Episode Three of Future In 15, James Rees, director of conferences & events at ExCel London, shares how the venue repurposed under-utilised space to create CentrEd.

Latest Features

Alt Venues: Stamford Bridge

Alt Venues: Stamford Bridge

In our monthly Alternative Venues feature, EN pays a visit to Stamford Bridge.
Breaking barriers

Breaking barriers

The London Muslim Lifestyle Show is bringing Muslim businesses to the world stage, despite the occasional far-right protest.
My Working Life by David Chalmers

My Working Life by David Chalmers

The senior marketing director, Europe, at Cvent discusses how he got into the industry, his inspirational children and why he’s called The Doctor.

Latest Galleries

A sneak peak at Somerset House's new event space

A sneak peak at Somerset House's new event space

Some of the industry’s leading event organisers were treated to an exclusive preview of Somerset House’s largest and most versatile indoor event space at an open house event on 19-20 April.
EN Awards 2017

EN Awards 2017

The best of the exhibition industry were out in force on 30 March at ExCeL London for the 11th annual EN Awards.
Natural & Organic Products Europe 2017

Natural & Organic Products Europe 2017

The 2017 Natural & Organic Products Europe celebrated its 21st edition earlier this month (2-3 April) as well as attracting its biggest attendance yet to ExCeL London.