Orso Porta

Job title International events and project manager

Employer Freelance

What does being a project manager involve?

The role is varied but predominantly a project manager will oversee a department’s operations on venue, while understanding and communicating how my planned activities will influence and be impacted by those of other teams. Each project at a venue requires taking decisions on how to efficiently use resources to achieve objectives. The roles involve hiring, training, and leading teams of paid staff and volunteers. Among my responsibilities are logistics planning and delivery, branding, media and broadcast operations planning and management, event operations and staff, volunteer, and contractor training. I’ve been fortunate to work at Euro 2016, Toronto 2015 Pan America Games and the London 2012 Olympics.

It sounds like a wide-ranging role?

There is a marked change between the planning and operational phases of a project. During the planning, the main activities involve conducting surveys of venues (and specific spaces therein), understanding operational needs, and meeting with colleagues in charge of other onsite operations to understand how to best work together to meet our clients’ and stakeholders’ needs. This allows for gaps to be identified and accurate plans to be drafted. During operations, a typical day starts with briefing my team on the activities for the day ahead and getting started. The daily venue team meeting is usually the next important moment to share updates and be aware of what other projects are dealing with. The day usually ends with a team debrief and writing a daily report to raise issues and communicate developments.

What would you say are the most enjoyable things you do?

I love the element of challenge. Each day and each project is different. I also love the opportunity to learn about new topics and areas of events, as well as share your experience and expertise. It takes people from all backgrounds to achieve success. It also offers a ready-made social life.

What are the most challenging things about what you do?

Long days, though these come with the territory. And occasionally, politics that interfere with plans. Events can also mean long periods away from family and friends. This is particularly true when you are freelance and accept last-minute opportunities.

What advice would you those looking to get into event management and project managing?

Some people thrive without specific qualifications, unless you are involved in a legal, finance, or technical function. A trend is for many people to obtain Project Management qualifications, such as PMP or PRINCE 2. I would recommend volunteering at a local event or, if you are prepared to travel, at an international one. Volunteering will allow you to find out if this is the path you want to follow. Definitely gain exposure to international environments. This can be gained through working abroad (more so than travel alone) or, if still in college/university, a student organisation that helps and works foreign students — such as AIESEC chapters in business/economics faculties. Attempt to learn to read and write in a foreign language.