Seeing the Event World Through an Intern's Eyes
By Samantha Vuijst
Growing up as a competitive and ambitious athlete, I always liked going to big sporting events, not only to participate but also to wonder how everything was done behind the scenes. It made my choice pretty easy when I had to decide what I wanted to do in the future. I had it all figured out -- I wanted to be an organizer in the Olympic Games within 20 years.
For me the first step towards that goal was to have a killer internship in the United States. After I got in contact with Mark Sheldon, the VP of Operations at AOO Events, I got my wish. Before I knew it, I was on a 12-hour flight from my comfort zone in the Netherlands going to a place where everything is bigger and better -- the United States of America.
Thinking about what it would be like beforehand was one of the hardest things to do. What did I expect? What did I want to get out of the internship? Those are questions that people asked me constantly before I went, and I never had a clear answer. What did I expect? Of course I did my research: I started reading DesignDawgs, following David Merrell on Twitter and researching the company on the internet. But because the event world in the U.S., especially in Los Angeles, is so broad, it's hard to form a clear expectation.
You first think about Hollywood and the glamour, but that lasted only for a minute. I was thinking more about what I would do there. I honestly thought I would be doing a lot of administrative work and research, and I wasn't wrong about that. But I never expected to be on-site as much as I actually was, which I think is the key to any good learning experience. I also didn't expect to be around the client as much as I was, and I certainly was amazed by the dynamics of this incredible industry. The biggest thing for me was the American work culture. I always heard it was sink-or-swim (good thing for me I'm a competitive swimmer) and you have to work your butt off all the time. Of course these are only stories but in the event world, it's not that far off. And I have to say, I love it!
AT THE EVENTS
Before and after shots of Naval Aviation Gala on the USS Midway
The first event that I was part of was the Centennial of Naval Aviation on the USS Midway in San Diego. An historic event in itself, it was also the weekend that I got the "event butterflies" in my stomach!
Even though I was just the newbie looking around the corner, or in this case, around the ship, I learned a lot. The most important factor was probably patience. If you work on such a big production as Naval Aviation, you are working with so many people -- from production to entertainment, from show caller to script writer and so on. That means you really have to have a lot of patience to keep everything running smooth and on schedule. But having that much patience turns out to be really good because it's so interesting to see a room transform from something "normal" to something absolutely amazing, as you can see in the photos above!
What I didn't realize before I came here is that AOO Events is a unique company on its own. Not only does it design and produce, it also manufactures a lot of the elements, like those chandeliers you see in the "after" shot above.
When you have a team manufacturing your design, you're looking at a room in an entirely different way. It makes you even more aware of the space, the measurements and most of all, the design. You can create something really unique, something that hasn't been done before, something that's initially only inside your head.
After San Diego, I was even more eager to learn everything and our producer, Jahon Pilichowski, really took me under his wing during the five-day Honors project which consisted of a dinner, fund-raising event and a gala. Even though this event wasn't as historical as Naval Aviation I enjoyed it even more, probably because I was involved in the entire project from start to finish. This included 16-hour workdays which I loved being a workaholic in the making.
Seeing a style page, like the one above, come alive is amazing. You know that you're doing a really good job when everyone wants to be part of it. And honestly, wouldn't you want to be a part of this dinner, looking at the final result below?
With special events, you really see how important a tight team is. Everyone has to complement each other to get the best result. Often people are only seeing the designer or producer but they are relying on the whole team to get the job done. And the longer you work with these amazing people, the more they grow on you, especially in a company like AOO; it's like they become your surrogate family.
And who is to say that when you're working in the office at AOO you can't help your family with production?
Above, Kelly and I are helping the production crew with AOO's sponsor booth for our City Year Fundraiser (below).
My time here at AOO Events started out with butterflies in my stomach during Naval Aviation and now that it's almost over I'm still head over heels in love with the special event world. Yes, I do still want to be an organizer of the Olympic Games, but it's not my dream anymore. My dream now is to work at a company just like AOO.
This isn't the world of glamour if you're on the organization side of events; it's so much more than just glamour, it's a lifestyle. One thing I know for sure is that I'm going to miss everyone here. Thank you AOO for making my time here the best in my life!
Samantha Vuijst has been an intern at AOO for the past few months. She will be leaving us this week, but we hope to see her back again soon!