Catch up with Lilian Tawadros

Once drawn to the events industry by visions of endless parties, champagne and pretty dresses, this project manager (incentives) with Arinex Australia soon shed her rose-tinted glasses but fell deeply in love with the business all the same.

Lilian Tawadros

You started young in the events industry. Did you always know it would be a rewarding career?
I was very idealistic as anyone under the age of 20 would be, coming into the industry. I thought the industry was amazing. It was all parties and champagne and yes, there was a little bit of work but it was more fun than work. But as I gained experience, I realised very quickly that it wasn’t all pretty dresses and champagne. But by then I was so far into it that it became a part of me. I can honestly say I am one of those very few people who get up every day and love going to work.

Lilian Tawadros

What do you love about it?
In many industries you go in every day and it’s a repeat of the day before. I have never done two events that are exactly the same; no two clients are exactly the same; no two incentives are identical. Every event comes with its own bonuses and challenges.
One of the things I’m really proud of is that every single client that I have personally managed their account, have consistently returned to say that they would most definitely use Arinex and my services again.

I’ve also had clients who heard about me through somebody else and told me they’d love to have me as their project manager. It’s those kinds of referrals that give you satisfaction every day.

What is it about you that is drawn to that environment?
It’s the amazing experiences. I grew up in a very normal middle-class family in Western Sydney and now, I’ve done things like bungy-jumping in New Zealand and helicoptering over the glaciers in Queenstown. I’ve flown to Hawaii and had (professional surfer) Layne Beachley as one of our speakers.

A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do that. It’s really long hours and hard work with no room for mistakes, but then you have these experiences and it makes it all worth it.

What’s been your most challenging project to date and how did you go about resolving that?
Last year I had an American multi-level-selling company that was used to getting unique experiences. The owners of the company have a very unique lifestyle and they followed very strict dietary patterns.

There were at least two pages of dietary requirements that every single person in the group must follow. It prohibited basic things like white sugar, white flour, red meat, certain vegetables and grains. Every pastry chef uses white sugar and very few dishes don’t contain flour.

This group was on a 10-day incentive in the Gold Coast and Darwin, and having the venues adjust all of their menus for this two-page dietary list was a real challenge, not just from the venue’s perspective but also in trying to ensure that the guests still receive a wide variety of food. Plus it needed to be food that showcased the region and Australia.

But we really pride ourselves at Arinex in our ability to create those impossible experiences. And for that group, we actually did the first ever buyout of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, which had never closed their doors to the public before.

How did you manage to wrangle that?
Through a lot of sweet talking (laughs). No. While we like to have great connections with the client, it’s also important to have a really great connection and very open conversations with our suppliers. There are many people in the industry who may think that suppliers need them more than (it is the other way round). But it doesn’t work that way.

We both need each other just as much. And (it’s about) making it work for both parties. It’s not about pushing them (suppliers) to their very limit because they might do this one event for you but not the next.

Where do you see Australia’s incentives industry heading?
I think it’s going to grow quite significantly.

Australia is one of those destinations that take people so long to get here from everywhere in the world. One of the biggest challenges was convincing clients that Australia is worth coming to. But now that the airlines are working on their routing and creating longhaul flights out of the US for one, the industry is going to grow.

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