Personal account: Helen Bamford

The special events project manager of Mencap recalls Christmas tree trouble.

Helen Bamford
Helen Bamford

The best advice I've had

Know your audience. My first boss explained the importance of making sure you have a solid base of people who will buy tickets to an event. It's always tempting to run with a great idea - but the ultimate aim is to raise money, so it's crucial to be able to sell tickets.

The biggest challenge I've faced

Project managing Mencap Music's Little Noise Sessions - nine acoustic gigs taking place at Islington's Union Chapel in London this November. We are lucky to have a lot of help from the Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley, who curates and hosts the gigs for us each year. In our special events team, we organise the gigs from scratch - everything from booking the venue, organising the marketing and helping to set up a website for ticket sales to liaising with the band's management and catering for their pre-gig requests. Fortunately we haven't had anything too demanding so far, although we have had the odd strange request - we were asked to create a shrine to David Hasselhoff, the star of Baywatch, for one band last year.

My greatest hit

Hiking in the mountains in Vietnam as a Mencap rep. The trip was a real challenge, mentally and physically. The scenery was breathtaking and the people on the challenge were amazing. I came away with legs that ached for days, but also with a real sense of satisfaction at completing the hike in the company of people who were willing to push back their own physical barriers.

My worst moment

A 17-foot Christmas tree arrived for a carol concert, but it had no stand. Our sponsor had put in a special request for a 17-foot tree, so we couldn't really replace it with a smaller one, but we couldn't find anyone who could get the stand to us in time. Some volunteers helped me out by erecting the tree with a pile of bricks from a DIY shop and balancing it against the church wall. The tree looked great and the carol service went brilliantly, but it did take a saw and a six people to dismantle it afterwards.

My top tip

Lists. Writing a list has always calmed me down whenever my workload has overwhelmed me. It puts everything in perspective and helps to clear your head. This is especially helpful in the events sector because you are always juggling competing deadlines.

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