Please introduce yourself
I am Zainab Alqritli, a Libyan Jordanian that has been living in Istanbul since 2014. Currently, I am studying Interior Architectural and Environmental Design at Beykoz University. I am a curious person, therefore you will always find me attending different courses and learning something new; right now I am more interested in developing my art skills and to improve my Mandarin and Korean. Likewise, I am hoping, after graduating, to move abroad and work somewhere around China in a field that allows me to work as both a designer and an artist.
What made you want to be the Events Coordinator at Istanbul&I?
I joined Istanbul&I as a general volunteer back in October 2021, then immediately joined the HR team as HR Internal Events Officer. A month later I also became a team member in the Events Team as Events Officer. The board back then saw a potential in me and recommended me to run for election as Events Coordinator, I didn’t think much about it and decided to give it a go. I was actually surprised when they announced that I was elected, and took me a couple of weeks to grasp it.
What makes an event successful, and how do you measure that success?
I think the answer to this question is quite hard and very subjective, each person has a different scale to measure success. Some think that achieving great numbers is what leads to success while others believe that impacting people's lives directly is what success means. Personally, I think I am somewhere in the middle; I don’t try to stress much about numbers and I always think that impact can be achieved naturally without it being forced. During my term, I set different goals for my team to achieve. When we were able to achieve them I would move to the next one, in the rare cases where we weren’t able to achieve them I didn't call it a failure, rather I called it an experience to learn from and try to overcome together. I also put a lot of effort into making sure that all team members are able to feel successful as well, so I always kept their opinion in mind on what “success” is and tried to make sure we are able to achieve it for all of us to feel satisfied at the end of the day.
What was your most successful event planning experience?
There are many remarkable events on my mind, but the most memorable one I would say is the “Korean Culture Night: Korea beyond K-pop and K-Drama”. It was a milestone for the Culture Night Event team, things changed after it...before I always called the Culture Night event a successful event from the outside but a disaster from the inside. Looking at numbers of participants, donations and the responses after the event is always great. In fact, it was one of our biggest events in Istanbul&I, however when it came to the preparations it was very draining, hard to manage, and we had to stress about it 2 weeks before and after the event. Ever since we held the “Korean culture night: Korea beyond K-pop and K-Drama '' back in March, a lot has changed. A new manager joined the team and worked hard on developing a new structure for the events, team members, and the volunteers helping on the day of the event. We were also blessed to receive support from the Korean Culture Center in Istanbul, they ordered cooked meals from a Korean restaurant and delivered it to us. The representative team was one of the best we’ve worked with, we were also lucky enough to have performers who agreed to join the event and perform cover songs for us. However, we did face a major obstacle when the representative got Covid-19 and couldn’t be present with us at the office. But because everything was going well from the other aspects, we were able to carry on the event and for the first time have the representative do the presentation online through Zoom. This all happened with the support from the team members to ensure everything was going smoothly. As a result of all of this, “Korean Culture Night: Korea Beyond K-pop and K-Drama '' was a remarkable event, and thankfully we were able to have a successful event on the inside and on the outside. It wasn’t just the participants that enjoyed it, but also the team members were happy.
What has been the biggest challenge as the Events Coordinator?
The biggest challenge as the Events Coordinator was more of a personal challenge that I had to overcome. Surprisingly, I am an Introvert with good social skills, I like to have my circles small and tend to enjoy meeting new people once in a while without creating deeper connections with them. After getting elected, I struggled to balance things out, although I don’t like getting closer to people, I let everyone feel like they are close enough to me so that they can feel comfortable opening up to me when they need to. I also struggled a lot during big events, it required me to put a lot of effort into making everyone feel welcome and had to have an unlimited number of mini-conversations with everyone, to the point where when I got back home I didn't have the energy to interact with anyone. Funny enough, becoming the Events Coordinator made me more introverted because I had to spend the extra time that I had to recharge away from people. If I had to add one more thing, I also struggled at the beginning when many team members left due to personal reasons, I had to keep reminding myself that it's not personal and that's the nature of an NGO; team members won’t last forever, and I will have to get used to having a new team every 3–4 months. These challenges taught me a lot, and facing them made me learn new sides of myself.
What has been your greatest achievement in this position?
My greatest achievement as Istanbul&I’s first Events Coordinator is simply that I was able to focus on the social inclusion aspect of the NGO and created a strict structure for all teams to keep going. We rarely canceled an event and if we did, it was because of unavoidable reasons. During my term the events were happening continuously. I pushed my team a lot to be able to achieve the results we were aiming for at the end of the year. It's not easy to be able to have on average of 10 events a month and to build a loyal audience who will always come back to you. During my term in 2022, the Events Team held 115 events and more than 3000 participants joined the events. Looking at these numbers, it makes me feel proud of the 40 team members I worked with during that time.
Has Istanbul&I changed in any way since you’ve become the Events Coordinator?
Istanbul&I’s beauty is in its changing, it’s a place that constantly changes, adapts, and develops. However, I would like to use the word developed rather than changed. In 2022, the Executive Board worked a lot on making a clearer goal for the NGO, especially when it came to each category. They decided that we would put more effort on impacting and supporting based on the resources we have.
What personality traits, skills, and education do you think successful Event Coordinators must have?
Recently I had a meeting with the new Events Co-Coordinators, about this question. Personally, I think there are many skills that the Events Coordinator should have, such as the ability to manage a big team, know how to deal with people from different backgrounds, be a quick problem solver, goal-oriented, have a lot of empathy, try to see the bigger picture, and try to see the good in people. A lot of the time I have to act like a “mother” when dealing with my team members, I have to understand them, guide them and sometimes even warn them. The Events Coordinator should be a person who is able to let everyone feel comfortable, and welcomed and at the same time feel trustworthy.
If you could give one piece of advice to the next Events Coordinator, what would it be?
Use this opportunity to learn more about yourself, personal goals are a must to be able to continue doing what you’ve committed to doing. It’s easy to give up when things get hard, but when you have a personal goal, it will drive you to continue. Find your own way, don’t accept the minimum, and always look to do better while keeping in mind the resources you have. Don’t shy away from asking for help, and don’t expect people to know when you need help. Remember that team members should come first, always stay connected, show them a lot of support, and protect them if needed. Don’t let them feel isolated or unheard, make sure to always listen and communicate with them. Personally, I thank my team for their achievements and take the blame publicly when a mistake is made. Lastly, learn how to say no, and when you have to say goodbye.
Thank you for all your efforts Zainab, the Istanbul&I team will miss you deeply.
Written by Ibrahim Altaweel - 19/1/2023