Caroline Kay has done it all, from Conference & Events Director, to serving as COO at a leadership development consulting company, and most recently, opening her own event management firm, C.KAY International. Today, Caroline focusses on running her business and producing events across the globe for top-notch corporate clients. Current and past clients include British Telecommunications, HP, Avanade, Microsoft, GSK, Merchant Acquirer’s Committee and Compaq.
Caroline got her start in events while attending university. She shares, “My father was in sales for a Round-the-World Yacht Race based in the UK. While at university, I supported him in hosting clients on the yachts and I loved every minute of it. In my second year at university, I had to do a six-week practical work placement. I joined a U.K.-based leadership development consulting firm to create corporate events, including conferences and corporate hospitality on yachts. I’ve been producing events ever since.”
When first starting her career, Caroline struggled with cutting through the noise and getting her opinions and ideas heard and appreciated. However, the adversity she faced helped her learn how to assert herself and make her ideas known.
“Being young and female in the corporate world, I found I often wasn’t taken seriously. My planning and organization skills were really strong even back then, but they weren’t always recognized. And my creative ideas weren’t always given full consideration,” Caroline explains, “Finding that my ideas and skills weren’t always acknowledged in the corporate world, I learned to speak up and stand my ground. I learned to be persistent and persuasive, to articulate my ideas clearly and professionally. And being a precise, detailed planner helped me to get heard and to be relied upon, which led to more opportunities.”
With an extensive background in events comes some great – or not so great – stories. Caroline shares, “Like all event managers, I’ve had to deal with a lot of chaos and crises – some humorous and annoying (e.g. the drunk executive about to give a key note), others truly distressing, even dangerous. I’ve found that the key is to ensure my team handles extreme situations as calmly and professionally as they handle the everyday bumps and bruises. I work to be unflappable, to handle everything with grace. A client once told me that I was like a duck—gliding calmly on top of the water, with legs going a mile a minute beneath the surface. I found that to be helpful imagery and a wonderful compliment.”
Caroline’s can-do attitude allows her to blow her clients out of the water, often by pulling off the unexpected, and then having to pull off the unexpected again.
“My philosophy is to never say ‘no’ to a client. I say ‘yes’ and figure out how to pull off the miraculous! I once had a client who decided very late in the game to make ‘bee hives’ the theme for their afternoon activity. Within a couple of hours, I had located bee hives, beekeeper suits, and huge decorative bees to hang from the ceiling. The event was ready to buzz! Then the client changed their mind. I grinned (with gritted teeth), we changed the theme, and moved on. You roll with the punches.”
After over 20 years in the industry, what does Caroline wish she knew when she first started her career? “I wish I had appreciated how essential clear, thorough communications are—communications that make no assumptions, that don’t expect that everyone is on the same track as I am. I’ve learned to go through every detail again and again and again. No detail or possibility is too small to be considered.”
Today, Caroline enjoys her career and the way it challenges her. “I truly love what I do. I love creating one-of-a-kind experiences for clients, full of surprises, successes, and delightful moments. I love being that jolt of event creativity, energy and expertise that contributes to a client’s business success. I’m learning all the time, I travel, and I get to meet and work with amazing clients and event management colleagues. The work is fabulous fun, with never a dull moment.”
Learn more about Caroline’s event production company by visiting her website https://www.ckayinternational.com/
Founder, C.KAY International
Caroline Kay is a conference and event planning mastermind with boundless creativity and more than 15 years of business and event management experience. She’s recognized for thoroughly understanding the business needs of her clients and producing events that meet those demands. Her globe-spanning events are meticulously managed and engineered with ingenuity, with a constant eye to ROI for her clients.
Her event management prowess stems from her business acumen and track record of success in startup and large enterprise environments in the U.S and U.K. In serving clients, she brings strong leadership and consulting skills together with extensive experience in business development, operations, account management, human resources and communications.