8 Career Lessons Event Managers Can Learn From “Game of Thrones”

Warning: there may be Game of Thrones spoilers ahead. Read on at your own peril.

If you’re like us, you’re just now settling in for the long Winter. That is, the 10 to 11-month period of darkness that is life without new Game of Thrones episodes. We’re just trying to immerse ourselves in our work, trying to push “Winter” as far from your mind as possible.

But that doesn’t mean we have to completely let go! We combed through 6 seasons to find some of the best quotes from Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. These 8 gems of advice have surprising relevance for event managers, no matter where in your career you are.

So if the thought of waiting a year for Season 7 makes you feel colder than a crow on the Wall, maybe you can find warmth by keeping these wise words from your favorite characters close to heart.

 

1. “You want to lead one day? Then learn how to follow.” – Lord Commander Mormont

Maybe the best advice the late Lord Commander ever gave to young Jon Snow. For all of his energy, skill, and intelligence (and maybe a bit of a sense of entitlement), Jon needed a wake-up call.

And so it is with aspiring event managers. There aren’t a lot of shortcuts to the top in producing events. If you want to lead your own team, you’ve got to build trust and establish relationships. That means taking any job you’ve been hired for and executing it as well as you can. Might you have more to offer? Sure. But first, learn how to complement a production crew and how to fulfill a specific role. When you do end up managing a team, you’ll have a greater respect and understanding of how all the pieces fit together.

 

2. “A bruise is a lesson. And each lesson makes us better.” – Arya Stark

Given the number of scrapes and bruises she’s endured, it’s no wonder Arya’s become as deadly as she has. Probably best to take this lesson a little more metaphorically, wouldn’t you say?

So much of the work you do in planning events you learn by trial and error. It’s like trying to learn how to ride a bike in a simulator. At a certain point, you’ve just got to take what you’ve been taught and try you’re best to apply it. But here’s what great about managing events. We’ve all been there.

Everyone you meet on a job site, at a venue, or a networking event has had ups and downs. And when mistakes happen, you learn from it and grow. Ask for feedback from other managers. Or clients, or vendors. Anyone who can give you a bit of honest feedback, especially when things get a bit bruising, will only make you better.

 

3. “Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.” – Jon Snow

This is an oldie, all the way back from Season 1.  As Jon and Arya prepare to go their separate ways –  Jon to the Wall and Arya to King’s Landing – Jon assures his sister that even though they are taking different paths, they may encounter each other again. Especially given their similarities.

This couldn’t be more perfect for live event professionals. Don’t let someone ever convince you there is only one way to get what you want. Building a successful event or production management career has as much, if not more to do with your leadership skills than particular expertise. There are successful managers who began as electricians, personal assistants, social media marketers, actors, and the list goes on. The most important thing you can do is first define your goals. Then, focus on ways to improve those universal skills – leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution, etc. – that every good manager needs to possess. Then, go find work that interests you. The roads are many.

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4. “Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” – Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion knows a bit about self-acceptance. He’s battled for years against stereotype and physical limitation to become one of the most important minds in the 7 Kingdoms (and beyond).

There are always parts of managing an event that will not be your strong suit. There is literally so much to do, so many details to manage and levers to pull that it would be impossible to become expert in everything. Accept it. Share it with your team and ask for help. It’s when your unable to complete an honest self-assessment that you run into trouble. And your events suffer.

 

5. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – Jojen Reed

One of our favorite characters. Without his guidance, Bran would never have made it to the Three-Eyed Raven. We take this quote pretty literally. The event industry is changing at a rapid rate. If you aren’t keeping up with the trends, the analysis, and also the lessons of past events, you’ll quickly be left behind. Stay current. Subscribe to blogs that pique your interest, join discussion groups, attend networking events. You might never deal in “gamification” or need to become an expert in event logistics or labor booking. But you should at least know what they are.

 

6. “The man who fears losing is already lost.” – Arya Stark

Another life lesson from Arya, likely imparted to her from her early dance teacher/sword-fighting instructor, Syrio. And it is this approach that leads a girl of 9 (to 11, according to the books) on such a wild and unforgettable path.

We’ve already covered owning up to your faults. But owning your faults means little if they keep you from challenging yourself professionally. Remember, much of what you learn in working events you learn by doing. If you convince yourself that you’ll never be able to accomplish something, how will you grow? Know that you will fail but also know that it is ok to fail.

 

7. “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” – Petyr Baelish

Ok. We admit: knowing Littlefinger’s endgame, this quote has a much darker meaning than we’re interpreting it. To us, and to most event managers we know, chaos is part of almost every show. Deliveries are running late, talent is cancelling last minute, the safety plans we created for the venue aren’t sufficient, and so on.

These are the times a true leader shines. He or she is able to chart a clear path forward for the event team. Use the craziness of the situation to inspire new ideas or alternate plans. Your adrenaline is probably kicking into high gear when something goes wrong. Use it. Don’t let yourself get buried under stress. When it’s all said and done, successfully navigating such chaos is likely to build an even greater trust among your colleagues.

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8. “A man who must say, ‘I am the king’ is no true king.” – Tywin Lannister

Perhaps one of the few men in all of Westeros who could comfortably put then-King Joffrey in his place. Though we weren’t sad to see him shuffle off this mortal coil, we loved this verbal smack-down of his spoiled and wretched nephew.

This is a perfect bookend to our first quote. Once you’re running your own event team, the real work begins. The best event managers lead not by decree, not by bullying or demanding. They lead by example. They lead by showing respect for the people they work with. From the client to a volunteer, from a vendor to a rigger. Don’t remind people of your job title. They get it. They can see it on the call sheet and the emails. Instead, be a person they can turn to for guidance and advice. To help answer questions or mitigate conflicts. If you’re feeling the need to tell people you’re the boss, it’s probably because you’re not doing the job.

 

Got more good “Game of Thrones” quotes for event managers? Geek out with us and share them below!

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