In the spotlight: Alistair Mawas, Big Group Events

With the meetings and events industry full of exceptional talent, it's important to recognise the valuable range of insight we have available within the mia network. We caught up with Big Group Events' head of events Alistair Mawas to get his thoughts on the industry and events in 2020.

Describe your day-to-day duties

My job at Big Group is to oversee all the internal/external event activity across the agency. I would start by saying……on a normal day at Big Group - but what is a normal day now? Working in such a fast-paced and fun environment, no two days are truly the same and I am very fortunate to work on some fabulous events such as the Olivier and BRIT Awards with Mastercard and the Hyundai Mercury Prize.

A ‘normal’ (says with a smile) day consists of attending various client meetings, creative brainstorms and assisting our event managers to ensure they have everything they need to execute the briefs. As we are a global agency, our work often takes the team overseas and in the last few years the team have executed incentive travel, conferences and bespoke event experiences in Washington DC, Madrid, Berlin and Nairobi.   

How did you get into the industry?

I left university with a BA HONS in Media Studies with a passion for television. Having learnt how to read an autocue I believed I was destined to become a television presenter until I met the current owner of the business on a film shoot that could have ended in embarrassment for me.

Ed Riseman (Owner and General Manager of Big Group) was quietly overseeing proceedings and I didn’t really have much to do with him on the day. Once the shoot had finished, Ed kindly offered me a lift to the station, which I gratefully accepted – and I just assumed he was the driver of the local production company. As we are chatting away, I then ask the question ‘so how long have you been driving then mate?’ to which Ed paused, smiled, looked in the mirror and said – I actually own the company. I still maintain to this day that is what got me the job because I made him laugh - that or he felt sorry for me. So I would conclude I accidentally fell into the industry, starting my journey as a runner and then working my way through the ranks.

What inspires you?

Perfection and the journey to strive and maintain it. A famous Michael Jordan quote ‘Success doesn’t stop when you get there’ is something that has always stayed with me and is what really keeps me focused. If you work hard and fully commit yourself to the job at hand, it is easy to put on a great event. But to do this consistently, on a global scale, and with the pressures of an extremely competitive industry is a challenge that I personally relish every day. I would struggle working in an industry that doesn’t constantly test you, ask questions and encourage you to relentlessly think outside the box and I believe this has been reflected in our event work over the years here at Big.

I also take inspiration in how we make our partners feel during an event. Over the years trends have developed with events having to become ‘experiences’ but I always like to go back to the question: ‘What do we want people to feel when they are at an event? How you make people feel will live in the memory of someone long after the event and is something I always try and implement into our event work.

What is your favourite meeting destination?

I have been extremely lucky in my career to have worked in some truly magical destinations - from directing a Football Festival on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janerio to conferences and event experiences in Barbados, the US, Nigeria and South Africa. Last year we produced a spectacular meeting programme in Washington DC, but my personal highlight would have to be working in Jordan. I had never been to this part of the Middle East before and was blown away by the breath-taking landscape, the culture and the warmth of the people. It has everything from an events perspective: wonderful conference halls in the array of luxury hotels, spectacular food choices and, because of the country’s historical landmarks, you can create a truly memorable meeting programme. The Dead Sea Resort is a real hidden gem and I do hope I can return one day, not just from a professional perspective but to take my family there to experience what I was lucky enough to do over the course of two years working there.

In light of COVID-19, what do you feel are the greatest challenges the industry is currently facing?

It has been a challenging time for the events industry, but with challenges come opportunities. I think the lack of understanding of what we (as a nation) were facing in the early months of the pandemic was probably the most challenging moment for the industry. Having attended various seminars in the early months of lockdown and listened to expert opinions differ day to day, it was hard to establish any clear path or plan, which of course is detrimental to any event. Since then I do believe we are in a much better place and, like us, companies are now having conversations about new business opportunities in the virtual world that may not have presented themselves before the pandemic. The pandemic forced the industry to collectively think differently, to re-evaluate their service offerings, and to question who THEY are in the new virtual events arena.

How can Big Events help the industry overcome these challenges and support with its recovery?

During the Covid-19 global crisis, our specialist knowledge has helped our partners to deliver their event content and stay connected to their audience with creative and effective online solutions.

We know that every event is different, and this applies to the virtual event space too. Through our in-house production team and strategic partnerships with industry experts, we can provide a wide range of live streaming services; from a fully produced webinar or virtual conference from a purpose-built OB truck to virtual team building and immersive online experiences. We also have a dedicated Virtual Reality team that works across two state-of-the-art labs in our Bath and Newbury offices. From there we can create virtual spaces and environments for our brand and retail clients to connect them with their consumers, partners and employees around the globe.

Where can people go to find out more about Big Events?

For more details on Big Group Events, please contact , Head of Events at alistair.mawas@biggroup.co.uk or visit our website www.biggroup.co.uk