Day in the life: Amanda Millard, event manager, IWTO

Variety is the spice of life

What’s your role at the International Wool Textile Organisation?

I am the event and office manager at IWTO and began my career with IWTO in 2003.

How did you get into event planning?

I joined a european association in Brussels in the early 90s as an event assistant and was very motivated by the organisation and planning of events. I realised this is where my strength lies and have never looked back. In Brussels with so many associations located here, we are spoilt with the number of support organisations, such as FAIB, UIA, VisitBrussels, and ESAE, where I am a member of the Events Committee.

What does your working day-to-day entail and how does this change when you’re planning an event?

Even after 17 years at IWTO, there is always variety and new things to learn. Leading up to events, I first try to tackle my inbox and then liaise with suppliers on various aspects of the event. Answer questions about the event from our members. Have a team meeting. Go through the inbox again.

Outside of an event, I am usually juggling three to four events, tying up the loose ends of the most recent one, getting into the details and setting up the online registration of the next one, preparing the details and contracts for the next two after that. I will also be working on the HR and office manager side of the job. Variety is the spice of life and that I most certainly have!

What events do you organise for ITWO?

IWTO organises two events per year. In April and May, we hold our Annual Congress which brings the international wool industry from farm to fashion together and can be up to 300 participants. In November and December, we hold our Wool Round Table which brings our key players to a destination to connect more intensely with the local wool industry and this is, in general, between 50-80 participants. We aim to hold these events in different continents and rotate around the globe.

How are the event destinations chosen?

For our congress, it is usually our members who bid to host and they then select the city within their country. For the Wool Round Table, we select the country we would like to deepen our connection with and discuss with our members where the most appropriate location would be to hold the event.

How has your role changed as association meetings have evolved?

Obviously, everything has become much more digital, and never more so than at the time of writing this. With regard to the organisation of the event itself, I would say contracts and timelines have changed the most. When I first began, hotel contracts were short and very flexible. Timelines for dropping rooms or number of participants were much shorter, so much more flexibility but of course the business events industry has evolved tremendously in the last 30 years.

What has been your most memorable event?

Difficult question! All in all, I think Venice in 2019 was probably the most memorable. Everything went very well to plan but it was also one of the most complex to put together.

We had brilliant on-site suppliers and there was a very positive buzz throughout the event. I must also mention Hong Kong in 2018 where East truly meets West as another unforgettable event.

What are some of the biggest challenges when organising international events?

Finding the right venue and suppliers, and dealing with different cultures and time zones leading up to the event needs to be well-managed.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of getting into association event planning?

Be flexible and choose your partners very carefully. Build up relationships with whoever you are working on the event with and communicate well. If you can, I would highly recommend adding a little bit of je ne sais quoi to your event to make it more personalised.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

I really enjoy the site inspection visits, where we get to view some wonderful places that you would not usually have access to, and the opportunity to really connect with the local organisers so that we are aligned with the expectations of the event.  And then the satisfaction of bringing our members together, connecting with them and seeing the whole thing come together.