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20 Jun 2024

Session Insights: Breaking Boundaries with the Fast Forward 15 Cohort

Session Insights: Breaking Boundaries with the Fast Forward 15 Cohort

The Fast Forward 15 session at Confex 2024 brought together an inspiring panel of female industry leaders to discuss their experiences and the transformative impact of the Fast Forward 15 programme. The session featured Adenike Alliu-Ward (HFW), Annie Smith (Hanson Wade Group), Fay Sharpe (Fast Forward 15), Mia Breading (Incisive Media), Natalia Lada (Natalia Events), and Rose Griffiths (emc3).

Fay Sharpe opened the session by sharing the origins of Fast Forward 15. Ten years ago, Fay noticed a significant gender imbalance in the events industry, with over 82% of nominees for major industry awards being men. Determined to make a change, she founded Fast Forward 15, a free mentoring programme designed to support and empower women in the events sector. Over the past decade, the programme has mentored and coached thousands of women, offering a comprehensive support system that includes one-on-one mentoring, educational days, and hosted trips to major industry events like ImEx.

The session then introduced the current mentees, who shared their unique backgrounds and experiences. Annie Smith from Hanson Wade Group, Adenike Alliu-Ward from HFW, Mia Breading from Incisive Media, Natalia Lada from Natalia Events, and Rose Griffiths from emc3 discussed how the programme has helped them grow both personally and professionally.

Annie Smith highlighted how the programme has kept her accountable and constantly growing, while Mia Breading emphasised the confidence she gained from stepping out of her comfort zone and embracing new challenges. Natalia Lada shared her perseverance, having applied three times before being accepted, and how the programme has pushed her to develop her skills further. Rose Griffiths spoke about the network and support system provided by the programme, which has been crucial in her early career in events.

A key component of the Fast Forward 15 programme is the charity event, where mentees organise and execute a fundraising event with no budget. This year, the mentees collaborated with New Life, a charity supporting disabled children. They hosted a clothing sale with items from top retail and designer brands, which would have otherwise gone to landfill. The sale aimed to raise funds for New Life while promoting sustainability.

The session also included a goal-setting exercise, where attendees were encouraged to write down and share their personal and professional goals. The mentees discussed how setting specific, actionable goals has been pivotal in their development. Fay Sharpe stressed the importance of having a clear action plan and staying committed to one's goals.

The panel concluded with a lively Q&A session, where the mentees answered questions about the application process, balancing personal and professional goals, and the benefits of having a mentor. Fay Sharpe encouraged everyone to apply for the programme, highlighting the incredible opportunities and growth it offers.

In a surprise finale, the Imperial University Dance Society performed a vibrant routine, embodying the spirit of empowerment and celebration that Fast Forward 15 champions. The session closed with a call to support the New Life charity event and an invitation to visit the boutique sale.

The Fast Forward 15 programme continues to be a beacon of support and empowerment for women in the events industry, fostering growth, confidence, and community. For those considering applying, Fay’s message was clear: "Don't think, just do. This programme can change your life for the better."

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