mariam ahmed | shortlist media
Stylist Live opens it’s doors to a whole host of talks, workshops, catwalks and trends featuring some of the most influential women (and a handful of men) in the country. Imagine putting that whole thing together, well that’s what LDNER Mariam Ahmed does, being Events Director from Shortlist Media Ltd. Here’s our chat with Mariam.
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
I’m based in Barons Court, a little stop of no consequence to those that don’t live there. It’s a stone’s throw from the Thames Path where The River Café is based. You can then walk all the way to Putney, past my favourite London spot: Bishops Park which has its own beehives and a small rivulet running through it. It also has a café serving homemade pizzas for £5 and gelato in waffle cones. During tennis season, Queens Club hosts all the pre-Wimbledon matches and Barons Court comes alive with fans and sports paraphernalia.
How did you get started in the events industry?
I went to an all girls’ school which used to hold an annual fashion show and it was the highlight of our social calendar! When I went to University in York, they didn’t run one so I started my own society and ran a huge fashion show in my last year. I made all my friends the committee members and took my knowledge from school and applied it to the project. I really enjoyed being part of an end to end process, brainstorming where and how we should do it, selecting models, styling, PR and marketing and then event logistics – it was so involved and busy and that’s when I caught the events bug, I was supposed to be a barrister…
I secured a job with Emap in their events division straight after University which gave me a brilliant foundation of event logistics, I still use some of the templates and suppliers I met at Emap 13 years on.
How have you ensured that this year’s Stylist Live is going to top last year’s edition, that’s got to be a tough job?
Research, research, research. We find out what our readers want to see more of and deliver them the best speakers and experiences in that field. This year we have some of the UK’s most influential women including Annie Mac, Dame Kelly Holmes, Fearne Cotton, Nadiya Hussain (to name a few). We have curated a line-up of topical talk titles, everything from The Post Brexit Survival Guide to Body Hair Politics, there really is something for everyone this year. Plus, we throw in a complimentary G&T for good measure.
I’m really excited to share all the new features too; we have created a studio called Thrive which will host business talks on the Friday (think Mary Portas’ workshop on working like a woman) and more hands on sessions over the weekend; How to Speak in Public, Live Drawing Classes.
The VIP area is presented by Shiseido Group this year and is going to be a real treat for all beauty fans, it’s going to feature 5 pop up rooms from their brands: Shiseido, bareMinerals, NARS, Laura Mercier and Buxom. There is also loads of delicious food and drink offerings and prizes to be won on our Vending Machine of Dreams plus FROW seats for VIP ticket holders at the Stylist catwalk which is always a highlight. I have seen the visuals and they look amazing, I can’t wait to see it come to life.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in organising such a large scale event?
I think the scale in itself can be the biggest challenge. Olympia is huge space and there is infrastructure to take into account before you can even put your own stamp on it; carpets, electrics, lighting. Then you have to think about how you decorate these large spaces; it has to feel fresh and Instagrammable whilst at the same time being detailed and intimate. Our stages for example; there are 3 main stages on the event floor; Grow, Spark and Lead. This is where most of our talks will be hosted. They all accommodate circa 250 people and it’s a challenge working on designs that are both stylistically right for us as well as making sure everyone can hear properly and that both the speakers and audiences feel connected within the space.
Authenticity and quality is really key to us at Stylist so it’s a constant challenge to make sure that each one our 103 speakers, 236 exhibitors and 80 talks are all absolutely spot on, the best in their field, for our 21,000 guests.
Apart from Stylist Live, what’s been the career highlight in terms of an event you’ve done?
I used to work for a small boutique company that organised events in London but ran them over all America. I was really young but made Head of Events and really thrived on the responsibility. It was physically hard work but extremely rewarding and running that first event in Chicago was a big moment for me. I learnt a lot of new skills; organising events from a distance, how different the States is regarding manual labour (unions etc!) and how to negotiate (where I had worked previously we had a venue sourcing team). I have taken a lot of skills away from that job and can tick foreign experience off my list!
Describe your perfect day in London.
A long walk on a sunny day starting from Kensington Gardens, where I often hope to bump into Megan Markle, then through Hyde Park along the Serpentine, popping out the park to pick up a sandwich lunch from Harrods (they do these insane poached salmon filled baguettes) then into Edgware Road for dinner with friends at Beirut Express. I’d take the bus home through Notting Hill and Holland Park, so I can ogle all the houses I want to buy one day.