Aaron Reader


We caught up with Aaron Reader, our invaluable Managing Director of CSM Live in the Middle East, to talk about his career, family, and pick his brain for his predictions of the rest of the year.

As an experienced director within CSM Live, can you talk us through your career highlights to date?

In terms of projects, the trifecta of FIFA Club World Cup 2018, AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 back-to-back-to-back deliveries stands out. It was a pleasure to be involved and to watch the teams, the hard work, the quality of delivery and the emotion of the events themselves.

Being involved in the acquisition of Prolab Digital by CSM Live was a proud moment. From a professional perspective, it was a great learning experience dealing with people who were well versed in M&A. From a personal perspective, it was an assessment of Jayne’s (Jayne Reader, CEO CSM Live in the Middle East) and countless others’ lifetime of hard work and achievements.

Prolab Digital is now part of the CSM Live family. Talk us through the opportunities as you see them that this delivers.

Prolab Digital and ICON / CSM Live have been working together for 12 years and partnered for 11 of those. When we attended the global gathering in 2020, we added a little “just married” emoji to the presentation and I think that really highlights the relationship well, on a personal level between our respective leadership teams and employees, through growing business opportunities together, information sharing, minor jealousies between teams, and ultimately the overarching mindset that we are better off together.

We are now in a place where everything is transparent and we are breaking down little internal barriers in order to provide a more efficient and unified service to our customers. The integration between the teams (now team) in the UAE and CSM Live internationally has already enabled us to approach projects with a big focus on cost-saving and resource-sharing. Whilst Covid may have prevented some of that work from happening in the last 18 months, the thought process is definitely in the right place and we are really excited about the opportunities this will bring to CSM.

What would we find you doing in a normal day?

The best aspect of this job is the requirement to adapt to new challenges on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. A typical day for me would be:

Coffee and a quiet corner to check emails, whilst trying to listen – just listen – to urgent requirements (in person, over the phone, on WhatsApp or by email).

Move to my computer, run through emails again and push through any immediate responses and admin/accounts requests.

Deal with any ongoing or new demands. This can be anything from RFP responses, budget checks, new enquiries, drawings requests, customer or team meetings, administrative responsibilities, and Expo (for the time being). I take it as it comes and support where I can.

You will normally find me in Jayne’s office when I need to get away from my screen/phone, either for a friendly chat or a second opinion.

Leave the office when we’re in a comfortable place.

With Covid still rearing its head and Expo on the horizon, please can you talk us through your predictions for the remainder 2021?

Our life is governed by clearly defined new practices and CSM Live has evolved to mitigate any health and safety risks and exceed those demands in order to maintain our service levels. The UAE’s world-leading response, Expo 2020, recent political advancements such as normalised ties with Israel and Qatar, and upcoming mega events such as World Cup 2022, are driving the market forward past the Covid collapse of 2020/21. Whilst the UAE is doing everything it can to get through this, it is really up to CSM Live to maintain its position as a market-leader and come out the other side knowing that we have pursued every opportunity, achieved targets and looked after our people.

So far, 2021 has been about delivering Expo and testing scaled-down, socially-distanced, health-and-safety-focused events. The last few months of 2021 will see the UAE explode with normalised events, as Dubai welcomes the world for Expo 2020. We are very excited!

What are you looking forward to the most over the next 12 months?

This is easy! Watching Expo come to life is exciting! The site is beautiful, the exhibitions and pavilions are works of art, and the look, wayfinding signage and city dressing (delivered by us) is world-class. I think Expo 2020 will be a game-changer for the UAE, the region and the worldwide events industry.

World Cup 2022 is around the next corner, and seeing events (in general) fill up the calendar gives us hope for the future.

Separate to work, I can’t wait to visit my sisters and nieces in the UK. Watching my nieces grow up over Teams has not been fun.

When not at work what can we find you doing?

I’ll be in the gym, or at home with family and friends, possibly behind the BBQ, having a drink and a chat, probably watching sport. In better times, I’ll be out dancing in a dingy random bar somewhere, meeting up with old local friends, planning an escape to a deserted island then changing my mind, or travelling to a music festival.