Secrets to success: Events extraordinaire, Kate Pembroke

We’ve partnered with some of Australia’s top career professionals to bring you the best of the best industry secrets and success stories. Read on for top career advice – from some of these amazing mentors.


We chat with Kate, the Sydney-based founder and CEO of Kate Pembroke Communications. Kate was also a key part of the team who created the world-renowned Sydney Vivid Festival. Today, she talks about her career defining moments and how to combine study and discipline with following your instincts.

When you’re new to events management, chances are you’ll want to start small. A book launch, maybe. A media lunch to showcase a new restaurant’s menu. Or, if you’re events expert, Kate Pembroke, you could throw yourself completely in the deep end with an international sporting event like the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

sydney olympics

“That was my first major event; I was working at Tourism Australia at the time,and we were all focused on it, it was a major opportunity to sell Australia to the world,” remembers Kate, who offers events management as part of her freelance media, marketing and communications business, Kate Pembroke Communications. “Then I moved onto a role at the City of Sydney where we produced, developed and promoted a huge number of events including Sydney New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year just to name a few! The year I started we had the Gay Games and the year after that, the Rugby World Cup.”

New Years Eve Sydney

Let there be light: a career-changing moment

Creativity is everything in events management – as is figuring out how to execute your brilliant ideas, and having your finger on the pulse of what’s working elsewhere. All of that helped Kate when she she worked as part of the foundation who created Vivid Sydney, a hugely popular event now in its ninth year, which drew a record 2.3 million visitors this year.

Vivid Sydney

“At the time, I was Head of Corporate Affairs at Events NSW, and part of my role was to help develop and promote new events,” explains Kate. “We saw a gap in the events calendar in late May and early June, and came up with a concept called Mid-Winter Lighting Festival.  At the time there were lighting festivals in Europe which were proving very popular, so we did a lot of brainstorming and meetings and came up with the name Vivid Sydney. I was responsible for making sure the images of the Opera House went around the world.  Driving media and publicity for the lighting elements, the music at Sydney Opera House and the ideas program at the Museum of Contemporary Art.”

Kate believes it’s also important to follow your passion. “If that means changing careers, then by all means, do it sooner rather than later,” Kate says.

Secrets to being a good events manager

If you’re organised, a good communicator, bursting with great ideas and can keep it together when a scary deadline is looming, events management could be a perfect career choice, muses Kate.

“Events are creative and incredibly satisfying to work on – from concept development right through to execution,” she explains. “You get to work on your own but also as part of a team, which I love, because it brings together people with all different skills. It’s hard work but well worth it.”

The secret to Kate’s success? Being reliable and responsive, she says. “Having integrity and being honest, coming up with new ideas, being creative and following my gut and looking out and after people who work for me or with me has all worked in my favour,” she adds.

She also believes the most important thing she’s learned is to do what’s best for your organisation rather than your individual role. “And if your boss asks you to do something, do it straight away, don’t wait to be asked a second time!”

Event Management

Kate’s advice on how to get started

Becoming a highly sought after events manager is about doing the right kind of study, and being open to learning on the job, says Kate. “The major benefit from my education was learning how to problem solve and to think critically and anticipate issues – all incredibly important when it comes to planning an event.” Study also teaches you discipline in everything from time management to meeting deadlines, she adds. “[It also] allows your mind to exercise itself; it stimulates your imagination. Knowledge of what is happening in event management across Australia and around the world is also key.  You can always learn by studying best practice and being committed to continuous improvement.You also need to view feedback as an opportunity.”

Event Management

Practical experience is incredibly important – because you’re forced to think on your feet and come up with solutions in real time, which teaches you a lot. “A combination of both study and on-the-job experience is important however with events, the more practical experience you can get the better,” says Kate. “There are so many opportunities to volunteer at events in Sydney, like Newtown Festival or Sydney Mardi Gras,” says Kate. “And Sydney Festival are always looking for volunteers.” Keep your eyes and ears open to new events and when you attend observe what works and what doesn’t.”

Keen to know more about studying events management? Check out our range of flexible online courses

Stay tuned for the next installment from more of our top  industry professionals, coming soon to the blog.

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