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Ella Holt: My congress event diary

My event diary – 10 days in the life of a Project Executive (featuring roaming sheep, sightseeing, and a record-breaking downpour!). 

December, 2023

I’m Ella Holt, and I joined the business in February this year. I graduated last year with a degree in Digital Marketing and worked in marketing and events roles before joining the company. 2023 has been amazing, with plenty of travel and opportunities to help manage big events for some high-profile clients. I thought I’d share my diary from my longest on-site event, the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) congress in Madrid, to give you a flavor of what we get up to! 


Day 1: Arrival.

Our first challenge came just after landing in Madrid, as our cases were lost! Eventually, we were reunited with our luggage and en route to our first stop. Our first mission was to stop at each of the five hotels where 350 delegates would be arriving to collect the rooming lists. A congress of this size requires both seamless organization and great communication, so detailed preparation is key!


Day 2: Pre-congress meetings.

One of my key roles was to carry out restaurant checks, arrange seating, and ensure that all dietary requirements had been met. I love this job, as it’s also a great opportunity to see a bit of the city, including Madrid’s palace! A twoday summit of pre-congress meetings was also taking place, and we looked after the catering and Audio Visual set-up for this. 


Day 3: Rest of the event team arrives.

We set up an events office at the main hotel, with 10 of us on site to support our client at the congress. The Project Manager and I delivered a staff briefing to ensure everyone was clear on their role. We finished the day with a team dinner to officially kick off the congress and were even serenaded by a guitar player!



Day 4: Picking up event registrations.

This was the most significant day for a Project Executive, as we needed to ensure that delegates had their event registrations and transport passes and could get the most out of their time at the congress. Seven of us went to the congress center to collect the accreditations and check them thoroughly, before ensuring that the correct badges went to the correct hotels. When delegates arrived, they then had everything they needed. 


Day 5: Main arrival of delegates… and a downpour.

On this day, Madrid had a record amount of rain, making it the wettest day in more than 100 years. This resulted in canceled flights and huge travel disruption within the city. Thankfully, most delegates did still reach us and were relieved to see our registration desks, which were set up in each hotel to welcome people.



Day 6: Congress opens.

We’ve reached the first day of ESMO! A busy day with a few challenges to work through. Some delegates hadn’t collected their badges before heading to the congress center, which required some speedy communications with our team near the hotel so that they could pick them up. We were also looking after our Business Hub, a purposebuilt site for our client to hold meetings, which we monitored using our congress app. In the evening, there were a number of delegate receptions and dinners, so our job was to ensure that all coach transfers went smoothly.


Day 7: Congress symposium.

Our group was holding a symposium today, so we ensured everyone was in the right place and had their lunch! That evening, we headed to San Miguel Market to try chorizo, various hams, and all the food! The atmosphere was buzzing, and it was a great end to the day. 


Day 8: Departures, sightseeing… and a sheep parade.

A 3.30am alarm, as a number of healthcare professionals needed early transfers to the airport. It was one of our more intriguing days, as we got to see a special annual festival in Madrid where sheep parade through the city! It’s all about celebrating ancient herding routes, as farmers take their sheep to winter pastures and promote biodiversity. Seeing the streets packed with both sheep and tourists was quite a sight! I also had the evening off to explore the city and went to the palace, the plaza, and the jambon museum. Getting to experience different places around the world is such a highlight of the job.



Day 9: Meeting with client and end of congress.

As the congress drew to a close, I was able to join our client at a special industry meeting to share feedback, challenges and to gather data on the event. This was the biggest ESMO ever and a huge success for our team. These meetings also give us a chance to start thinking about making it bigger and better in 2024!


Day 10: Heading home.

After catching up on emails, I found a gorgeous bakery to have my final Spanish lunch and gelato, before heading to the airport. A lovely driver collected me and took me home, where I had an enthusiastic welcome from my dog Ollie! It was an exhilarating, tiring, and satisfying 10 days. 



My 2023 travels to Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan, and Rome. I always send pictures to my family when I am away. My dad replied to my message, If you made a collage of all the places you have been this year with the business, it would be incredible,” and he is SO right. It really is incredible! 


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