June 23, 2009

Planning is the bedrock of any event – Remi Johnson

MRS.  Oluremi Faderera Johnson  is a UK-trained Event Planner and Managing Director of Meeting Expectations Ltd. Born in the ancient City of Kano, Mrs. Remi Johnson who hails from Osun state, has passion for bringing professionalism into event planning in Nigeria.

In this interview with Charles Kumolu, Mrs. Johnson who plans to bring the Institute of Events Management to Nigeria, argued that the initiative will give the best to planners and clients.

How did you get into Event Planning?
I graduated from Lagos State University. I was in the civil service for eighteen years. When I discovered that Event Planning is good, I went into it.  I manage all the people involved in events.

This includes the caterers, designers, decorators and even drivers. All these people are vendors in event planning and management. I was in the business for some years without a technical background. What I mean is formal training on the job.  When I travelled out for holidays, I met a friend who is a certified event planner. She enlightened me on what to do to be a professional.

I took her advice and enrolled in the Institute of Event planning in the UK. I had my Diploma in event planning. That makes me a professional, who is recognised locally and internationally.

When you look at the Nigerian situation, you will discover that we have a lot of event planners who are not professionally qualified and that creates room for mediocrity.

The way a professional will handle your event, will be different from how an untrained person can do it. I am not really happy with such a situation because I am a professional.

The cost of hiring a professional Event planner is as good as saving some hundreds of thousand of naira. Also clients will be relieved of sleepless nights spent over event planning and execution by shouldering the responsibility of planning, managing, sourcing/securing venues, Hotel accommodation, marketing, publicity and professional vendors.

Mrs. Remi Johnson

Mrs. Remi Johnson

Usually, most non-professional are only concerned with just the event proper and not the activities that lead to the event and after the event. As a professional, your concern should be both for pre-event (activities leading to the event), execution (event management) and post event (memory, stock taking and feedback)

How can you describe event management in Nigeria viz a viz career and management?
Event planning consists of planners, managers and vendors. If you are a professional you must have these people incorporated into your business.  The social event, is the easiest to manage, although it has its own challenges too, especially when your client does have a picture of what he wants. There are also some technicalities for putting social events together for smooth management. And if that person is not an expert, he may find it very difficult.

For example, managing a seminar and AGM require different approaches. Seminars require technicalities and the budget will not be the same as AGM. For instance, if you want elaborate or small wedding, I can just tell you the budget because I know what I am going to work on. An event planner is expected to give out the best in order to protect his/her integrity.

The most important thing is to protect the interest of your clients because they are the host, and their name is at stake if anything goes wrong. Sometimes we come across stubborn clients who do not want a change in tradition or a specific way of doing their thing. As a professional, there are ways of working with these clients in getting the best for the event.

In Nigeria, the challenge is that people see Event planning as an all comers affair, that is why they don’t plan well. But as a trained person, I give the best. Planning is the bedrock of any event.

Can you call this profession a feminine thing or it cuts across all genders?

No it is not. Any trained person can do it. It does not matter whether the person is a lady or not. What matters is giving the best.

Yes, we have men who are into it. Event planning in Nigeria revolves around who you know. If you don’t know any influential person, you may rarely get jobs. By the time you know someone, then you find it a little easier. I once met someone on my way back from Dubai and when I saw the things he bought, I suspected he was an event planner or a decorator. By the time I had a chat with him, I confirmed he was into events by accident.

I later discovered that he was a banker but dabbled into event planning. I was happy that he told me his background. The Institute of Event Planning will give such people the opportunity to sit for the professional exam in order to be an authority not only in Nigeria but in the whole world.

Looking at the business environment in Nigeria, would you say it has been favorable by encouraging women to excel in different spheres?
I like this question because  I am a feminist.  I can tell you that Nigerian ladies are shock absorbers. They are determined and strong people. There is no situation that a Nigerian lady would find herself without finding her way out of it. That makes us different. I am happy that women are more involved in event planning than men in this society. That is a good thing. Women are becoming more involved.

When you talk about women engineers, lawyers, bankers and others, you will discover that they excel among their male colleagues. The only issue is the disproportionate ratio of male to female in most of these profession. As a result we have women forming association to fight for their common interest especially when there are issues of discrimination.

So, I would want the Nigerian lady professional to be given equal opportunity in their various endeavours, then you will see the strength of a woman.

Given your Civil Service background, would you say what you are doing now is more challenging than your days in the civil service?
Yes, What I am doing now is more challenging. You experience new things in the course of the job, while in the civil service, you see the same thing every day. What I am doing now is different. It is not what you meet in Total that you will see in Chevron.  As a professional, I get to meet different people all the time unlike the civil service where one is restricted. There is satisfaction in what I am doing because of the passion I have for it. That is why I am calling on some people who are into it, to embrace it professionally. In a way of giving back to the job, we are inviting the institute to Nigeria. I want to give the best to the country at all times.

What are the challenges you encountered during your teething period as an event planner?
I will not say that there were no challenges, but they were not frustrating. My competence to manage events early in my career, my ability to put all the people concerned together, getting a hall with the requisite things to organise a conference, seminar or AGM, sports festival, annually community festival, product launch, rebranding, awards, concert, these are the jobs of event planners.  So I may describe them as usual hurdles of a beginner.

The best thing that has happened to me so far on the job, is going professional. Being a certified Event Planner early, got me this far. We are putting together an event before the end of the year to bring all event planners together for sharing of ideas to make event planning worth practicing.

Success Nuggets
Why should I deem myself to be a chisel, when I could be the artist
– Friedrich von Schiller