Jobs4football Meets James El Deiry

Jobs4football meets James El Deiry

Prepare to embark on a journey into the realm of Event Management and Operations with James El Deiry, a seasoned professional renowned for his innovative approach and diverse expertise. With a career spanning both sides of the Atlantic, James brings a wealth of experience in orchestrating seamless operations and delivering unforgettable experiences for attendees.

Throughout his illustrious career, James has navigated through a myriad of challenges, showcasing his strategic acumen and problem-solving prowess. From managing high-profile events at loanDepot park to overseeing large teams at BEST, Crowd Management, James has consistently demonstrated his ability to thrive in fast-paced, high-pressure environments.

Jobs4football Meets James El Deiry

In this exclusive interview, readers can expect to gain insights into James’s unique perspective on event management. From his strategies for enhancing customer satisfaction and ensuring operational efficiency to his approach to budgeting and stakeholder collaboration, James shares valuable lessons learned from his extensive experience in the field.

Join us as we delve into the remarkable journey of James El Deiry, a visionary leader shaping the future of event management with our Jobs4football Q + A:

Q: With your extensive experience in event management across various sports / events, what unique challenges have you encountered, and how have you overcome them?

A: A major challenge that I faced as the Operations Account Manager at BEST, Crowd Management was when fans would attempt to enter the venue with prohibited items such as weapons, aerosol cans and alcohol. The fans would be aggressive and frequently would engage in verbal altercations with our security staff. I would be the staff’s first point of contact, and would deescalate the situation to ensure the guests understood the stadium policies. On one occasion, a fan tried to enter the stadium with a handgun, and I was called to address the situation. I made the decision to prohibit him from entering the building, as per our security policy. However, I had trained the staff across all entry points to identify him, should he attempt to come into the building again, and I received a report that he went through the building but was not detected through our magnetometers. I alerted the police, and called our command post to check through CCTV to identify his last known location. Police were able to locate the man, and found his weapon hidden in the bushes, outside of the stadium. He was charged by the police and taken away from the premises. I realised the impact of sending his description around to all the security staff, as he would have gone unnoticed if staff weren’t alerted to this man. I was proud that I was proactive and thought ahead to a situation where he could have attempted entering the building again. I was also proud of the team for alerting me as soon as they saw him, aiding the search effort and for their overall professionalism in a scary situation. I saw first hand the impact of our security training where we covered descriptions and using the radio for information sharing to avoid a critical incident.

Q: Can you share a particularly memorable event you were involved in, detailing the key strategies you implemented to ensure its success?

A: I worked the Kanye West listening party at loanDepot park. This event was announced 3 weeks before the date, giving us very little time to prepare and plan for a popular and well attended event. I scheduled a meeting with my clients at loanDepot park to understand their budget, their concerns and focus on delivering excellent service in a small window of time. I met with my team and our first priority was a risk assessment so we can identify key areas to target. We began to do our research on the demographic and any risks associated with that age bracket. This led us to identifying the main age group was between 18 and 35, which can involve drinking and illegal substances. I made the decision to eliminate all bags from entering the building to avoid fans from bringing in their own alcohol or substances into the venue. My second priority was to plan the flow of fans, as this would be a sold out event and one of the highest attended events of the stadium in the year. I went through the ingress, circulation and egress cycles of the event and went through the team to cover information sharing for guests.
We covered how we would provide information and maps around the building, have a morning briefing for the staff, ensure security staff are roaming around, wayfinding and identify any narrow stairways or crowded streets. As part of crowd control measurement, it was important that our list of celebrities were kept safe too, so we identified the best area for our VIP entrance and allocated extra security and Special Response Teams. The last aspect of planning was interior access control, for example our locker rooms, production offices and hospitality lounges. I raised this as a concern to the client, and persuaded him to increase the budget to provide extra staffing to maintain the safety of those areas .

On event day, I briefed the security and guest experience managers in the morning, and explained the strategy I had planned to ensure the security of the event. I covered the bag policy, and the importance of our high priority areas remaining safe. Fans were initially frustrated about our new bag policy, but I had anticipated this and had set up a free locker system which kept a lot of the fans content. The show was delayed by 2 hours which caused a lot of fans to congregate on the concourse raising our fire safety risk but as this was covered in the risk assessment. I was able to deploy the special response team to clear out the area. Our next challenge was that we received a lot of calls on radios in regards to medical calls for fans who were intoxicated, but they had radio training prior to the event and were able to alert medical professionals quickly and professionally. Our egress protocol was to place extra resources outside the building and the VIP entrance, and it enabled a steady flow of fans leaving the building safely. We had no security issues on the day, and I was proud that the risk assessment and the crowd control strategy I had in place was effective at ensuring a successful event.

Q: Given your background in operations management, how do you prioritise tasks and allocate resources effectively in high-pressure, fast-paced environments like sports stadiums?

A: Working in large scale high-pressure events needs a strategy ahead of the event so that I can identify easily the highest priority and where resources need to be allocated. I will create a risk assessment that maps out all the situations and rank them on their impact and their urgency. For example, when holding an event with players or celebrities, we must take into account the players safety and the ability to remove them from a dangerous situation. When working with the Miami Marlins, we held meet and greets with current and retired players. A risk that is associated with an event like this would be the increased access that fans have with the players. Each player had a designated Special Response Team member and security officer to help with any player movements around the venue. These adjustments helped make this event very successful and helped create a great family friendly environment while keeping all parties safe.

When a situation may have a lower urgency or impact, I know I can delegate tasks to my line reports and hand responsibility for certain tasks, such as scheduling our staff and fielding any payroll or HR related questions. During the process with the team, I would keep a Gantt chart to keep sight of the tasks, deadlines and the progress that the team was making. It also meant that if a task was behind deadline, I could consult the team member responsible and see how I could support them to complete their task. It enables open communication with the team and ensures there is strong alignment on our priorities and it shows our internal senior stakeholders how we progressed in high pressure environments. It also gave me the opportunity to learn to adapt in changing the priorities, and how we can respond to new information that changes the event entirely.

Often a contingency plan supported us when things would go wrong, for example, players would allow their families to come down to the field after the game ended. There would be times where fans that were not related would try and access the field. This would heighten our security and require us to enforce our contingency plan which would be to shut down field access until we would be able to identify families of the players entering the playing field

Jobs4football Meets James El Deiry

Q: Managing large teams can be complex. How do you ensure cohesion and efficiency among staff, especially during critical moments of events?

A: At BEST, Crowd management, I managed 350 variable stewards. It’s important to build a relationship with them ahead of a game in order to run a more successful and efficient operation. Understandably, it would have been impossible to have a relationship with over 350, so I identified those who would be a great supervisor and trained them first. I ran a robust training programme that taught the supervisors about security protocol, customer service practices and wayfinding around the building. As I mandated that each staff member working at loanDepot park had to complete this training, I asked the supervisors to support in their training
and this developed a strong and trusting working relationship amongst the staff.

It’s important to maintain clear communication throughout the training and event days as it was an opportunity for stewards to raise questions or concerns they may have to the team. When people receive their full information ahead of an event, they feel they’re being supported and enabled to do their job as best as they can. It also gives me an opportunity to address key learnings from prior events, and explain how we have created solutions based on any issues that were raised to us earlier, for example, on our first Miami Marlins game of the season, we unfortunately had a field intrusion. After this happened, I retrained my staff on field intrusion protocol while also increasing our presence in the vulnerable area that the intrusion occurred. We completed the rest of the season without a field intrusion.

Q: In your role as Operations Account Manager, you oversaw various events at loanDepot park. Can you elaborate on the strategies you employed to enhance customer satisfaction and ensure a smooth operational flow?

A: For each event, I would discuss with my clients what requirements were necessary to deliver smooth operational flow. It was important to understand their current level of satisfaction and where I could improve our operation further to strengthen our relationship. I would hold regular meetings with them to keep an open line of communication so they feel seen and heard. In those meetings, I would understand their needs, preferences and their pain points with the operation and disseminate the information to my line reports who would be trained on delivering a high standard of care for the client. I wanted to ensure we not only deliver a high level of care for our client, but that we consistently delivered it, so I used a project management tool so I ensured that our tasks were visually laid out and we could see upcoming deadlines.

Customer satisfaction also extends to fan experiences, and there were occasions when fans were unhappy adhering to our security policies such as our bag policy. Whilst it was easy to turn fans away if they didn’t follow our security protocol, a big part of my operation was to also problem solve for fans to prevent small concerns escalating into major conflicts, for example I would direct them to use our lockers and would waive the fee. After each event, I would have a debrief with my team to address the issues that arose throughout the event and discuss the steps we took to solve them. I would also hold a debrief meeting with the client to ask for their feedback and drive any improvements they suggest in future events, demonstrating a commitment to their satisfaction.

Q: Collaboration with stakeholders is crucial in event management. Could you discuss a time when you had to navigate conflicting interests among stakeholders and how you resolved the situation?

A: I had regular meetings with our client, Miami Marlins to have a general discussion about the operation, address any cross department conflict and an overview of our budget. I would then use my own experience to make a decision on which route we would take to make the event go smoothly. There was a high profile VIP attending a Miami Marlins game who had negative publicity around them. In our regular meeting with our client, I had made the case that it was important that they had security officers assigned to them. The Head of Event Operations felt that this could draw attention to the VIP, whilst also hesitant to commit more resources to them. I felt it wasn’t appropriate to press the point repeatedly in a group setting, so I spoke to the Head of Security at Miami Marlins, and went through a risk assessment that mapped our certain scenarios and their impact. He agreed and was able to have a conversation with the Head of Event Operations outlining the necessity of security personnel on the VIP, illustrating the urgency using the risk assessment I had created. As a result of the security entourage around the VIP, fans didn’t approach them and they were able to have an enjoyable guest experience

Q: Budget management is a significant aspect of event operations. How do you approach budgeting and payroll processing to optimize resources while maintaining quality standards?

A: In previous role I  oversaw budgeting and payroll processing in my current role as people operations coordinator at London Stadium. It was my responsibility to add last minute changes to schedules and attendances to ensure staff were paid correctly, and on time. I kept quality standards by running weekly forecasts and actuals reports to identify discrepancies in each department, and would present to my manager the findings so we could correct these for future events. For example, a few weeks ago, the report showed that the Hospitality department had spent over 5K more than their forecast, so I was able to raise this with the general manager of London Stadium. I was tasked to investigate where the extra spend had happened across the events at hospitality and whether they had acquired the correct approvals for the expenditure. I had presented to the general manager my findings, and they signed off on the report and my findings.

At BEST, Crowd Management, stewards would be paid 1.5 times more for overtime hours, which would cost our business more money in the long term. My internal stakeholders had requested that I reduce our overtime hours from 20% to 10%, so I looked at our budget and realised it will cost us less if we hired more stewards to cover the shifts rather than have staff working overtime. I spoke to our client, who liked to request specific staff to work the high priority positions but I agreed to ensure we trained a second team who can take on those same positions to the same standard of care the client expected. After 10 games, I trained enough staff to cut the overtime labour costs by 10% and saved BEST, Crowd Management $50,000 over the course of the season.

I had previously worked as an accountant and gained experience in optimising profits, reducing expenses and analysing financial data. As a result I have been able to apply this background and financial knowledge in all my roles in event operations

Q: Looking forward, what specific career aspirations or challenges are you aiming to tackle next in your journey within operations management and event planning?

A: I have always held myself to a very high regard and always pushed myself to be the best I can within the industry. I am constantly learning and evolving  to become the best in class event manager for a major sporting team or  organisation in the UK. With my professional experiences in the US and the UK, I have built great skills that can be transferable to any organisation and help them achieve their key objectives. In a diverse career, I have had the opportunity to work across security management, hospitality, guest experience, people management and client relationship management and as a result built a great foundation in event operations and managing large numbers. Now is the time I look for the next opportunity and look forward to see what that is!

As our interview with James El Deiry concludes, his wealth of experience and strategic acumen in event management shine brightly through his own personal reflection. Throughout our conversation, James always provided invaluable insights into the multifaceted challenges of orchestrating successful events, demonstrating a keen ability to navigate complex scenarios with poise and precision.

With a career spanning both the United States and the United Kingdom, James brings a global perspective to the table, enriched by diverse cultural insights and industry best practices. His dedication to excellence, evidenced by his proactive approach to problem-solving and meticulous attention to detail, sets him apart as a leader in his field.

As James embarks on the next chapter of his professional journey, he remains steadfast in his commitment to delivering exceptional results. With his expertise readily available for new opportunities based within the UK, James is poised to make a profound impact on the event management landscape, leveraging his extensive skill set to drive success and innovation.

We extend our sincere appreciation to James El Deiry for generously sharing his knowledge and expertise with us. As he looks ahead to new horizons, we have every confidence that James will continue to elevate the standards of excellence in operations and event management.

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