Twenty-seven acres of floral mastery, over 150,000 visitors, and more than 17,500 cups of tea – the next Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show may still be two months away, but the event’s deputy operations manager Cody Gibson has his work cut out for him, already working hard to make it a success.

At just 21 years of age, Cody Gibson plays a vital role in the success of what is the world’s most prestigious gardening show, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It’s a massive production that requires plenty of hard work and dedication.

Cody is responsible for everything from arranging large contracts and developing meticulous AutoCAD maps detailing marquee layouts, emergency evacuation routes and land use analysis, to forming contingency plans and communicating with major stakeholders. And that’s all before the event even gets to the point of setting up.

“The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the highlight of the horticultural calendar for any gardener. It is the place to see cutting-edge garden design, breathtaking floral displays and all sorts of incredible garden gadgetry,” Cody explains.

“My duties are constantly changing. No two days are the same.”

Born in Rugby, England and raised in Noosa from the age of seven, Cody knew from a young age that a career in events was the right path for him. He volunteered at his first event when he was just 12 years old before earning a casual position with IRONMAN at the age of 15. It was there through his colleagues that he heard about our Diploma of Event Management.

blog-career-in-full-bloom-2-tile.jpgCrowds flock along Main Avenue at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017
I chose TAFE Queensland because they were flexible with their hours, which was great when I was off-site working an event. It was paramount for me to maintain my position with IRONMAN and I worked most of their events, sometimes for up to three weeks which meant missing classes, but TAFE Queensland helped accommodate this while offering hands-on experience and introducing us to contacts in the industry.
Cody Gibson

“I knew that this was what I wanted to study as soon as I left high school. When I joined the course my immediate goal was to gain a permanent position at IRONMAN, climb the ranks, and then hopefully move on to bigger and better things,” he said.

During his studies Cody was offered a full-time role with IRONMAN, and once he graduated he went on to gain casual work with other sporting organisations across Australia. This provided him with valuable lessons and earnt him experience that eventually lead to landing his current position with the Royal Horticultural Society in England.

“I distinctly remember volunteering at Tough Mudder for two days. The first day was rainy, overcast and miserable, but everybody absolutely loved it. Then the following day was beautiful without a cloud in the sky and the athletes just didn’t seem as happy,” he recalls.

“That was when it hit home for me, that athletes and people in general value experiences over anything else. Even though the weather was horrible, it heightened everybody’s experience. They were muddier, it was tougher, they felt more accomplished, and above all it was memorable.”

Cody may have now swapped the sand and surf for soil and foliage, but the meticulous planning required to ensure this world-class event runs smoothly remains the same – just on a grander, more sophisticated scale.

“Probably one of the coolest things I’m able to experience at present is our link with the royal family; creating plans that will influence the royal visit has been quite the experience!” said Cody.

“I’m currently developing a concept event for the 2018 show, with the idea for people to see Chelsea in a whole new light.”

Catering for such a large crowd can be a daunting task and while Cody has a self-made 45-page book containing every possible detail down to the total number of ice creams (75,000) and cups of Pimm’s (24,000) consumed at the show on average, there is always room for error. But Cody says he has learned not to dwell on the mistakes, and instead uses each challenge as a stepping stone to develop his skills and knowledge.

“At one of my first ever events as a full-time employee (at IRONMAN), I put some signage on a finish arch backwards. Nobody noticed until we were pulling it down post event,” he laughed.

“There will be countless times when you make mistakes. I used to beat myself up over it. But you learn to use them to fuel your success.”

Now approaching his second RHS Chelsea Flower Show, clearly Cody’s determination and experience is paying off.

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