What Can the Apprentice Teach Us About Event Management?

Ten Event Management Lessons from the Apprentice 2015

I am am avid viewer of the Apprentice and I particularly enjoy any of the tasks that demand event management skills from the candidates.  Consistently the contenders get it seriously wrong and make mistakes which only highlights the skills of good Event Managers and why we are sought after!

In Series 10, Episode 5 Lord Sugar set the task of orchestrating coach tours.  Here are the 10 main mistakes/learning points I took away from the programme (as hopefully did the candidates!).

1. Know Your Audience

At points there seems to be a total disregard for the audience on the tours.  A particularly cringe-worthy moment is when James and colleagues are singing children’s songs to their group, who have signed up for a serious, high value, historical tour.

This to me shows a total lack of understanding and disregard for the audience.  The songs and approach is pitched completely wrongly and either they haven’t done their research or they don’t care about their offering.

Know your audience.  Take time to understand their persona’s and what turns them on.  Or off.

2. Listen to Your Audience

Faced with the children’s songs the tour bus feedback is “this is torture” however they still keep signing!  The message couldn’t really be any clearer!

Although I admire enthusiasm and energy it is important to take on board feedback, particularly direct feedback such as this.  See also point 1.  Who’s idea was this anyway?!  Children’s songs?!  Really?!  

3. Brief Your Team

Neither Project Manager seems to brief their team on what is expected from them, basic customer service, expectations, etc.

Let your team know what is expected from them, chains of command, how to go the extra mile and make guests feel valued.

4. Overdeliver

Watching this episode I am surprised that there are not more complaints as there seems to be so many failures on what is offered and delivered to the groups.

You should always have the ethos to overdeliver for any event your produce.  If you fall short be prepared for complaints.

5. Don’t Skimp on the Catering

One of the teams boasts that the cost per head for the lunch they have prepared is £2.10, however this is really apparent in the unappetising sandwich on offer.  Embarrassingly some of the tour members have paid £90 for their trip so to be presented with such a shocking offering is simply cringe-worthy.

However tight the event budget or however basic the food offering may be you should ensure that it is appetising, filling and fitting to expectations and the cost charged to the attendee.

6. Be Prepared to “Muck In” 

At one point an announcement is made that the toilet on the coach is out of order and to avoid it for the next 10 minutes whilst the problem is rectified.  I presume at this point that one of the group then put the situation right as quickly as possible.

On event days you will be called upon to deal with a multitude of different situations quickly and efficiently.  Whether you think this falls under your job role or not isn’t important, what is important is getting stuck in and resolving the issue as fast as possible!  

7. Choose Your Speakers Wisely

When a couple of team members are speaking to the tour at different points during the task we can see eyes glazing over and even people falling asleep on the bus and boat.

We all know how quickly a bad speaker can lose an audience.  Always do your utmost to research and vet speakers before securing them for your event.

8. Walk Through and Plan Every Possible Detail

The episode shows one of the teams lost, running late and chaperoning their tour members wildly around the town trying to find their next destination.

This highlighted two things to me:

A) the importance of planning and talking/walking through every detail

B) the importance of having important information to hand such as the destination address, a map, Google Maps/sat nav via your mobile, a list of key contacts and anything else you may need.

9. Keep to Schedule

Embarrassingly one of the teams has to cut short their tour of the Canterbury Tales to get back to Victoria Station on time or miss losing their drop off slot.

It is important to keep to time as closely as possible.  If you overrun and don’t work hard to pull back the time you will start losing people.  It is always good to add in some slack in the programme to get the schedule back on track.

10. Inspire Respect from Your Team

One of the Project Managers, Daniel Cassman, claimed to be an Event Manager himself, though unfortunately the viewer saw no evidence of this or any general management skills during the task!  The truth seems to be that he actually organises pub quizzes, which perhaps explains why he was totally out of his depth, however luckily he was on the winning team nevertheless.

As an Event Manager you must inspire respect and set a positive example to your team.  You need the skills, experience and authority to make fast decisions and communicate them to your staff.


The episode eventually sees Jemma Bird fired, although in fairness there are a few candidates who deserved to go based on the performance of this task!


Did you see this episode of the Apprentice?  Do you think Jemma was right to be fired?  What other comments and learning points would you like to share from this task?  I would welcome your feedback below!


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