As part of our International Women’s Month programme of content, we speak to our very own Executive Director, Claire Fennelow, on leading an organisation she was new to at the beginning of 2020 through a global crisis, and what she’s learnt from the last year!
What has been the biggest challenge of leading an organisation that you’re new to, through a crisis?
Firstly, the lack of some of the fundamental base-line knowledge that you pick up in the early days of a new job when you are out and about meeting people. That stopped very soon after I joined and from then on it was phone and zoom all the way. Secondly, having to learn really, really, quickly what the membership wanted from us (which is different to what they would want under normal circumstances) and reacting to that. Then finding a way to provide it, working from home…
And finally, the constant uncertainty and need to react swiftly to change has been both stimulating and exhausting.
What have you learnt from the process, about the industry and about yourself?
I’ve learnt that anything is possible and that you should just give things a go. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t work spectacularly well – you at least learnt something.
I’ve learnt that the corporate events and corporate film world is made up of a fantastic bunch of people – friendly, helpful, resilient, creative and extremely giving of their time. They have helped us every step of the way. And, whilst my concern was how new they were to me, I was of course, also new to them but they trusted and supported me and backed difficult decisions and choices that had to be made.
What have been your highlights so far? Any sparks of joy amidst the chaos?
Pivoting with a speed that felt uncomfortable to begin with, but we got into it. Delivering our first (and second) virtual Award Ceremonies, winning a few awards ourselves along the way, reflecting the year’s activity by producing a packed 2020 Annual Review.
The warmth and support of the EVCOM Board and the wider membership.
My colleague Amelia who has been a ray of sunshine and without whom the whole thing would have collapsed!
What advice would you give to people in similar positions to yourself, to fellow leaders, and to people navigating this crisis?
Keep on keeping on. People are extremely forgiving, so make mistakes, try again, do it anyway. On the other hand, I think we tried to do too much so that by the end of the year we were absolutely done in but to our members we were very visible. And that was the point.
Make the difficult calls and prepare to meet people halfway.
Don’t get too attached to ideas and plans – they’ll change next week! But DO have ideas and plans – they will keep you going.
What are you most looking forward to doing when lockdown is completely lifted, both personally and professionally?
I will be going out – A LOT! Meeting people in a professional and social capacity face to face, shaking hands, hugging, moving around, different view, the streets of London, Awards Ceremonies (never thought I’d say that having been to hundreds in my time), events in general, swimming, travel, cinema, restaurants, pubs – the whole shebang.
Do you have a message for the industry that you’d like to share?
A huge thanks you from the new girl for the trust, support, advice, and the real, tangible help from individuals (there are lots of you but I hope you know who you are). I am so looking forward to seeing you all in person and getting to know you better IRL.
Photo credit: Steve Forrest (Claire presenting the EVCOM London Live and Film Awards 2020)