Expertise in International Events Management

Expertise in International Events Management

Swiss Hotel Management School hosted Mr. William O’Toole on campus as a guest lecturer this year. Mr. O’Toole is an events professional known for his role in the creation and development of the event sector around the world. His experience spans every continent, from Australia to Africa to America, and covers everything from risk management to strategic development.

#Career advice

By Swiss Education Group

3 minutes
William OToole


The world leader in Events

Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS) was honored to welcome world-renowned events management expert William O’Toole on our two campuses. He guest lectured students about the nature of the events industry and the international standards adopted by event planners worldwide, which he himself had an integral part in establishing. We now ask Mr. O’Toole some questions about his experience in events, advice for those who want to enter the events sector, as well as some wisdom for both life and career.


How did you get into the events industry?

I finished University with a degree in Pure Mathematics. While doing this degree, I used to lead groups of students on what we call ‘bushwalks’. These were treks through the forest, sometimes for three days with up to 40 people. I had to be well organized, friendly, and prepared for problems. Also, I created and managed small dances and concerts. Rather than taking a job in mathematics, I went down that events path.  Soon I was creating larger concerts and dances. Then I saw the opportunity to develop parties for companies and festivals for governments.  This led to work in over 30 countries.

I realized there was a common system to the management of these events.  With my mathematics background, I had no problem creating a computer program and adapting other disciplines to events such as logistics, contract management, project and risk management. No one had thought of that at the time. Then I, together with some academics, wrote the first event textbook in the world in 1998. Swiss Hotel Management School has the British edition in the Library: Events Management.


When you arrived, how did you find the atmosphere of our campuses?

The campuses are ordered and beautiful. It was a bit confusing for me as I was used to a horizontal, not a vertical, world.  It was wonderful to meet the lecturers and they made me feel very welcome.


What is your impression of our students at SHMS?

The students were quiet and respectful. I had worked in events in most of their countries so I had no problem in engaging them.  The diversity at SHMS is a big plus as it creates a worldwide network for the students.


What experience did you want SHMS students to learn from you the most?

The events sector is a huge multi-billion dollar industry: sports, conferences, weddings, concerts, religious events, and more. It is in every country. Events are used by all companies and governments.  The same system is used to deliver events. If they learn that system, then they can work anywhere and on a variety of events.

event management otoole
William O’Toole engaging with Master of Science students in Leysin, Switzerland.

What qualities do SHMS students have that are needed in the industry?

First and foremost, events are about people. You must enjoy and understand them. Second, you must be methodical, as a small mistake can easily lead to a disaster. Third, you must understand what makes you excited about going to events. This is the feeling you need to elicit in your attendees.


Is there one key thing, a principle or attitude, that has stuck with you as you have progressed in your career?

Ethics. How you treat people now is how you will be treated in the future and how you will see yourself in life.


What advice do you have for students looking to work in event management?

Find out what makes you want to go to an event, and always keep that in mind. Learn the management system and go to events. Look at the crowds, operations, logistics, and staging. Update your knowledge and experience with every event you attend. Volunteer for the sort of event you want to work on. Gain as much ‘hands-on’ experience as you can.  Never forget that every event started with a person or a group of friends – even the Olympics – and that could be you. You can start your own company.


What’s next for you?

I will be going to the United States to give more training to festival and events professionals in project management and risk management.  Also, I have to update my own knowledge in neural networks and Bayesian mathematics and its application to risk management. I am researching travelling to Kazakhstan and other parts of Central Asia as I think these are the next areas for events development. This is all part of a Maturity Model I developed over the course of 20 years and can be found in my textbook, Events Feasibility and Development (2021), also available in the school library. Event-wise, I’ll probably be organizing our street party – I do this every few years.

We would like to deeply thank Mr. O’Toole for visiting Caux and Leysin to share his wisdom with our students as well as being so gracious for answering our questions for this interview. Industry insights from the top are extremely valuable for the well-rounded education we foster on our campuses, especially for our students specializing in Event Management.

Learn more
#Career advice


By Swiss Education Group