Day in the life: Carissa Henry, event manager, IFSWF

“I feel like this job was made for me”

Carissa Henry was looking for a new challenge when LinkedIn notified her about an event planner vacancy at the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF). Having organised plenty of events in previous roles, Carissa leapt at the chance to learn more about the sovereign wealth fund world and deliver events on an international stage.

How did you get into the event planning?

I started off being a PA for directors at architecture firms, like Zaha Hadid, as well as asset management companies. Then I was doing a lot of contract PA and office manager roles but was looking for something more permanent. I saw this role which was for an event and office manager and I was going through the job description, I realised I ticked every box as I’d organised loads of events in previous PA roles. I felt like the job was made for me.

What challenges have you faced in your role?

My first proper event was in Kazakhstan and I was thrown into the deep end.

Culture wise it is very different as the country is 80 per cent Muslim, so contacting them at the right time was difficult because there are a lot of religious holidays.

It was also challenging because once they found out my ethnic background I felt some of the people became quite withdrawn and  stopped emailing me.

I was nervous about going there but my parents have always encouraged me to be a confident person and they said, ‘just be you because there’s nothing else you can do’, and that’s what I did. I showed them that whatever they assumed about me was wrong and they ended up loving me.

What’s been your most memorable event?

In my second year I organised the annual event in Morocco, which was great, Marrakesh is an amazing place and we held the event in the Four Seasons there.

But it wasn’t without its drama, the Cvent badge machine got stuck in customs a day before the event. They had a member of staff fly to Marrakesh that night with a new badge machine for me and stayed on site for that morning to make sure that the event flowed.

For me, it was an example of where an event can go from the worst to the best, after that everything went smoothly.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of getting into association event planning?

Be open-minded, expect challenges but also if you love being an event manager you’ll love the achievements at the end of it. It’s worthwhile.

How do you deal with stress?

During the run up to the event, I am always stressed and while I normally laugh it off or joke about a glass of wine with my colleague at the end of the day, I make sure I always have a week of downtime after the event.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Being on site for the event and seeing the whole puzzle come together.