Planning key to events

5 QUESTIONS WITH... Special Events Aoraki founder Chris Thomas

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How did you get into your role?
I had been working overseas in the Pacific Islands and Asia. While there I was involved with organising a sevens tournament my company sponsored. When I returned to NZ, I started out volunteering and then working part time for the first South Island Masters Games in 2000. I then set up Special Events Aoraki Ltd and have been working full-[time] organising and planning events since.

What does it involve?
End-to-end planning, organising and delivering events. Almost all events have the same structure. There is a very long planning period, usually at least three months but often three or four years. During this phase, it is all about designing what sort of experience you want to deliver and then scheduling, funding, sponsorship, marketing, organising services and volunteers, logistics, communications, transportation, catering through to health and safety. You talk with lots of different people.
Then there is a short but very intensive build period. This is where you must be totally focused on pulling all the pieces together, and ensuring everyone involved is doing their job. The delivery is the fun part – this is when the event happens and you get to interact with the participants. It is quite short and then it is all over. You clean up and recover.

What are some of the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
For me the most satisfying [aspect] is seeing it all come to together and work how I have planned it. It is great working with the many sponsors, suppliers and participants and seeing them enjoy the event.

Where does your work take you?
I have worked on and delivered events in many parts of NZ. Some are one-off and others are annual events. I am currently working with a team on an annual Hamilton-based maintenance engineering conference and trade show. I am also preparing for the South Canterbury Wedding Show and beginning planning on the 2018 and 2020 South Island Masters Games.

If you could get two people to attend one of the events, who would they be and what event?
It would be great to get Angela Stone off the Real Housewives of Auckland to come to the South Canterbury Wedding Show and do some fashion makeovers for participants.
I would love Elon Musk [to] come to the National Maintenance Engineering Conference to present on his big projects like SpaceX, the Tesla electric car programme and SolarCity.