Olivia Schweikert is a Freelance Event Director & Event Producer who just spent over 4 years in New York, most recently working as the Associate Director of Live Events at cievents New York.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My first ever exposure to the world of events was when I was 18 and I worked as an Events Coordinator on the Coca Cola Christmas party in Sydney. They had purchased 1000 coloured cups that had all stuck together somehow, and I spent 5 days straight separating cups and repackaging them.
I was hooked from the start. That first exposure was an excellent introduction, as it really encapsulates the essence of working in events – you never know what is going to happen onsite and you have to be prepared to do absolutely anything to keep everything rolling.
Since then I have spent the last nine years working in the cievents offices in Sydney and New York, working on events all over the world including London, Cape Town, Budapest, Aruba, Mexico, Cambodia and so much more.
My expertise is in conferences and incentives, and I have a passion for the production side of events – stage design, technical production, all the audio visual and making the show come to life.
I moved back from New York in March after spending 4.5 years there, and a week after getting back the entire events industry shut down due to this pesky pandemic. Like many others, the event I was brought back to run was cancelled so I am currently utilising this time as wisely as I can.
Outside of cooking elaborate dinners and boxing every day, I have taken on Spanish classes, a sustainability research project, I’ve become the token ‘Quarantine Birthday Video Compilation Editor’ for all my friends and family having birthdays in isolation and started a new course on Corporate Sustainability, Social Innovation and Ethics.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I wake up early, not always by choice but instead by my custom alarm clock of my Golden Retriever, Fletch, and take him for a walk. I have breakfast (usually home made granola with fruit and a soy latte) then go to my makeshift office in the dining room.
I start the day with making a plan, what I want achieve by the end of the day and how I want to divide up my time. Since I am currently dipping my toes into many new ventures, it’s easy to get distracted between tasks and switch in between, consequently wasting time.
So if I dedicate two hours to Spanish study, I close down my emails, put some Spanish music on in the background and switch off my phone so that I can concentrate on that task. If I am studying for the course, I indicate which modules I want to complete within the time frame.
If I need a mini-break, I will spend time on vegetarian recipe websites and pasta from scratch blogs to get inspiration for dinner. I have bolted a boxing bag into the roof of my garage so will always include a workout at some point during the day.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Not working full time during this unusual situation the world is in can at times be hard. You have to be extremely self disciplined to ensure you are being productive, broadening your skill set and not being lazy.
When you don’t have a boss, a client or a deadline holding you accountable, it’s really easy to make excuses for not completing tasks. I’ve spoken to a lot of my friends in the Events world who are currently going through similar circumstances as me and they are all handling it in different ways.
I mean, who doesn’t love the occasional day time Tiger King binge or spending an entire day collating the best coronavirus memes, but that gets old really quickly for me and I want to ensure I have something to show for this time.
I don’t think many of us would have these circumstance before, of all this gifted free, uninterrupted time to do with it what you want. This is definitely a sink or swim situation and I most certainly want to be a swimmer.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
In most professions, but especially events, there is always time sacrifices you will need to make if you want to succeed.
The lead up to an event, travelling for site inspections, meetings and onsite requirements and the constant extinguishing of fires that are guaranteed to pop up – it’s impossible to not work some late nights and weekends.
But I think if you love what you do and work with amazing people, which I have been lucky enough to accomplish so far, it makes it all worthwhile. The pressure of work comes in ebs and flows, so I think it’s important for me to relish when there’s down time.
If I can leave work on time, I do. If I can squeeze in a yoga class before work, absolutely do it. If you’ve travelled overseas for an event to hit the ground running and can take a day or two off at the other end to relax and explore in a new culture, this is what I consider the perks of the job.
5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?
I think your relationship to your phone can be the biggest blessing and the biggest curse. I am extremely careful about my phone usage and this has had huge impact on everything – my sleep pattern, my self confidence, my concentration and my attention to detail.
I charge my phone away from my bed and always read my book before sleep instead of looking at my phone. Then when my alarm goes off I have to physically get up to turn it off so I start my day immediately rather than pointlessly scrolling first thing in the morning.
I limit Instagram and Facebook to once every two weeks and only follow friends and things that inspire me. This paired with the boring answers of exercising and eating healthy, as these are two foundations of most successful people.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
How I Built This with Guy Raz is a pretty incredible podcast, following the stories of big brands like SweetGreen, Swell, Lululemon and Event Brite – how they started and how the succeeded.
The Daily is my most listened to podcast, even being back in Australia I rely on the New York Times for my news.
I love true crime and finished The Teacher’s Pet recently, I listened to this while still living in the States and not only is it a fascinating podcast, I always love listening to Australian accents.
My favourite newsletter is from a close friend Gabby Lord who is a designer in New York and sends out weekly interesting quotes, articles and design related things – I love hearing her voice come through the text and everything she includes is thoughtfully included and curated.
Favourite books – this is an endless list but the most recent book I read that I loved was Boy Meets Universe by Trevor Dalton.
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I am definitely a massive hugger, and I feel so much energy and support from a hug from friends and family. I always feel invigorated after a good hug. I really hope the power of the hug isn’t dwindled by the taboo nature of hugging that is currently existing.
I watched Love Actually the other day and the opening scene at the arrivals gate at Heathrow and I found myself cringing at the sight of people hugging. We will either have PTSD when emerging back to the normality of human contact, or people will be so deprived of affection that the hug will come back stronger than ever.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Jane Goodall. Maybe just more so because I love reading or watching anything she’s involved in, but also she has devoted so much of her life to her work that her work has become her life. She proves when you are passionate about something you can embody it in everything you do.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Having now travelled to 47 countries, I’ve realised that seeing the world is something that is vital to my success, personality and growth. Having a trip to look forward to, research and plan gives me balance in all aspects of my life.
I will always go off the beaten path when I travel, and I will always find local and authentic accommodation. I will always immerse myself in the culture and try the local cuisine (well, the vegetarian parts of it).
I come back from a trip with a new found appreciation for life and this transcends through everything I do. This might not have the same impact on everyone, but if you find those things in life that truly excite you, it makes the hard work all worth it.
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