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By Maria Diamond
10 December 2022   |   2:08 am
Yuletide comes with its peculiarity. It comes with a lot of activities including End-of-Year and Christmas carousing for both individuals and corporate organisations.


Yuletide comes with its peculiarity. It comes with a lot of activities including End-of-Year and Christmas carousing for both individuals and corporate organisations. This is where Funmi Victor-Okigbo, popularly known as (FVO) displays her expertise, especially with ‘The Unofficial Christmas Party’ initiative, a high production multi-corporate end of year party that allows companies to outsource the design and planning of their end of year activities for their teams and clients, saving them time, effort and money.
The Production Designer and Chief Visionary Officer at Events Architects Ltd., a design-led event production and management agency in Lagos, Nigeria, has since 2005 helped brands achieve their business goals by creating extraordinary experience design for their target audience.
In 2020, FVO created ‘The Big Birthday Bash,’ a series of monthly events aimed at helping corporates/individuals throw or gift birthday parties without the stress of planning one.    She has led various teams to help corporate clients across diverse industries such as information technology, entertainment, media, banking and consumer goods, connect with their audiences by creating mind-blowing events through experience design.
FVO is also the Lead Facilitator of Events Architects Academy, a platform/community to train and connect aspiring event professionals looking to expand their knowledge and position themselves to work with global brands. She made her movie debut as a movie Art Director with ‘The Royal Hibiscus Hotel’ and followed up with ‘The Wedding Party 2,’ the highest grossing Nollywood movie of that year. In this interview with MARIA DIAMOND, she spoke about the role of event management sector in the Nigerian economy, factors driving Post-COVID-19 recovery in the events industry, the ideology behind ‘The Unofficial Christmas Party’ and how despite the economy downturn in Nigeria, the forthcoming 2022 Christmas would still boom as always.

Seeing what you have been able to achieve in the past couple of years, could you please take us through your educational background that prepared you for these skills?
I had my primary and secondary school education in Ibadan and from there I went on to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to study Mathematics and Statistics. Before I gained admission into UNILAG, I tried my hands on a little bit of architecture before I finally got into event planning and designs. I am a self-taught event designer and producer. I read a lot of books, took some courses and learned on the job.
What were you doing before you got into event planning?
I used to be that person that fixed things. I have always been resourceful, creative and I love structure. I had helped my mum run her schools for years, pretty much like the head of operations. I have also tried my hands on some retail. I love creativity and strategy, but I’m also very interested and involved in the execution. Creating solutions and not just dwelling on issues drive me.
Tell us about ‘The Unofficial Christmas Party’ that you are organising? How did you come up with the initiative?
It started with the mindset of solving problems; having seen how important celebrating the end of year party is to most people and organisations irrespective of religious background, everyone wants to unwind at the end of the year.

However, we discovered that people struggle with putting details into action for events, so we came up with a solution on how to help organisations plan a worthy end of year party without them having to go through the stress of planning. So, the Unofficial Christmas Party is the biggest multi-corporate and multi-industry end of year party night in Lagos, Nigeria. The Christmas and End of the year season are usually full of many activities for organisations. It is great that these organisations engage in a grand party to celebrate their wins for the year as well as reward their staunch clientele and staff members, without being saddled with the planning.
Aside from the solutions proffered, what is the peculiarity of The Unofficial Christmas Party?
The idea of a shared and collaborative End-of-Year Party where corporate organisations come together under one roof to party. The event is carefully curated to include a three-course meal, quality entertainment and to create an environment to promote meaningful connections and collaborations. People connect and reconnect business and partnerships are created. These are the testimonials of some of our attendees.

How do you source multiple organisations to party under one roof?
We do publicity and people engage based on their needs. However, because we have been around for about nine years, organisations that have had the experience always come back, they even get us referrals. They sign up with us to buy tables for their guests. Some organisations buy as much as 10 tables depending on the number of guests they have.
What’s your take on the Lagos State Government’s position on ‘Owambe’ (Party) contributing to the state’s internally generated revenues despite the economic downturn in the country?
I saw something recently on the Internet that Nigerians have a strong happy DNA and for me, this explains why we are all still here creating jokes and memes on social media. We find humour in everything and we are strong and highly motivated no matter what.

Look at what we have done on the global stage with the entertainment industry. It is tough here, but people are still able to succeed. We are fighters, we can’t stay down, though we cry all day about the economy, we still keep moving. I think what makes us special is that ‘can-do-attitude’ and wanting to stand out no matter what.

I personally preach about gratitude, when you focus on the things you have instead of the things you don’t have; you realise how blessed you really are and it makes a lot of difference.
Considering the present economic situation in the country and high cost of goods and services, do you think organisations would be up for party this season?
True, cost of goods and services have gone up, however, signing up for ‘The Unofficial Christmas Party’ is still a good deal as you get to share the cost of booking a hall, the food and entertainment among others with other organisations that are participating, especially as they don’t have to go through the hard work of putting it together themselves.

We are taking the stress off by saying come, plug and play, show up with your team and clients, party, and have a good time. So, in the end, it is still a lot of value and more cost effective.
As an event management firm, how does high costs of things affect your business?
The current costs of goods and services have affected every sector. Prices have gone up and the clients are also affected; however, the whole situation has made the clients more discerning and conscious in general. In the past, people, perhaps, did not pay as much attention to service providers as they do now. Clients now want to really know the value they are getting. They want things spelled out, they have a lot more questions and want to see your past work; and know if you are a value driven organisation, whether it works well for them before they will say that they are in a good place in spite of it all.
The event management sector was severely hit during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, would you say the sector has fully recovered?
Year 2020 hit everyone hard. As a matter of fact The Unofficial Christmas Party didn’t hold in 2020 and 2021. Last year, a few people came out and had parties, but we were being very sensitive because people were still working remotely, and nobody was really sure about the true situation of things. We didn’t think that it would be great to risk people’s lives for a party. However, we now feel things are almost back to normal and it’s a good time to celebrate, the fact that we survived. Although the recovery from COVID-19 is still a process, one that would continue for a long time to come, no one can truly say we have fully recovered.
As a woman with diverse responsibilities, how do you juggle through all of these and still strike a balance?
 I think the way to balance things out is to set goals and be intentional about everything including the relationships in your life. Everything is connected, however, you still have to create a priority list to know when to push something forward and when to put another at the bottom of the list. This is an art that must be learned by everyone. It’s not always easy but it can be achieved.

In Nigeria, event management seems like an all comers’ space. How does this affect the sector?
I think the fact that the entry barrier for event management is very low contributes to this. It’s easy for anyone to start an event management business and register a company. Like I mentioned earlier, I think when clients are more discerning, it will make it difficult for people who are not professionals to thrive. We have to see beyond what is posted and presented on social media. There is more to creating and producing events than a pretty picture.

Tell us about Events Architects?
We are an experiential events agency. We have been creating and producing events since 2005. We help brands communicate with their target audience and customers by creating unique experiences using events as a platform. We have worked with and for a lot of brands locally and internationally and they all have one thing in common which is global standards and excellence. At Events Architects Ltd., we are not just experience designers but problem solvers, so we approach everything from that mindset. Also with our academy, we train event managers and service providers in the industry on how to position themselves to attract the best clients as clients are drawn to excellence and best practices. So we teach that at the Academy.

Do you think you would have had it easier in this sector if you were a man?
I know that women are being marginalised in general and we have to admit that. Women are being restricted in many ways, some by the society and others by the women themselves. For example, mind-set, the way they were brought up and the homes they were brought up in. I also feel that sometimes women are being restricted by those voices in their heads that just tell them they are not good enough. I say this all the time, ‘be so good at what you do that your gender won’t matter.’ Let your amazing work be the thing people see and remember. If you present excellent work to any organisation or anyone, I don’t think anyone in his right mind would say oh you have not done excellent work but you are a woman and I will rather go for a man. I don’t think anyone would do that and if they do that, then you shouldn’t be working for or with them in the first place.