Special events

 

Special eventsEfficient special events are those that leave long lasting positive memories in audience and achieve their objectives as an event for organizers and other stakeholders. The actual event may last only few hours, but in order to organize them sometimes preparations need to be undertaken starting from months, or even years in advance, considerable amount of funds, and effort from many people are required to ensure the efficiency of the event. And the success of events largely depends on how competently they were managed.

Special events have some fascinating elements incorporated in them that you can remember them during the whole remaining period of your life. Many of us can remember witnessing such an event, be it a festival, sport competition, celebration of a national holiday, or other, that we remember them with warm feelings and nostalgia, and look forward to experience it again.

“The British Conference Market Trends Survey 2001 estimates that conferences and meetings are worth £7.3 billion annually. Exhibitions and trade fairs are calculated to be worth £2.04 billion annually, excluding the value of business transacted on them. This means that exhibitions are the fifth largest market medium, attracting 11 per cent of media expenditure in the UK (British Tourist Authority, 2006)” (Raj et al, 2008, p.4)

For an event to be memorable and entertaining for the audience and to achieve its objectives, it has to be efficiently managed by competent managers. Event management differs in many aspects from managing a business unit in many other industries in a way that it requires from the manager a high degree of creativity, preparedness to deal with many unforeseen circumstances, and a high level of enthusiasm.

 

Definitions

There are many authors who have contributed to the subject of special events and there are many definitions proposed by them as well. According to Arcodia and Alastair (2000, p.154) there are three reasons why standard terminology is required in the events industry:

Firstly, the terminology in the events industry must be consistent in order to ensure the transferability of the learned skills in the industry.

Secondly, in order to avoid misunderstanding and to ensure the clarity of communication among practitioners in events industry, there need to be consistency in terms relating to events industry.

Thirdly, lack of consistency in naming and classifying of the terms related to events industry may result in the events industry not to be taken seriously by people, which can cause its numerous economic and social benefits not to be understood.

Special event is defined by Robertson (2004, p.32) as a one-off happening designed to meet special needs at any given time. Author’s favourite definition is the one proposed by Allen (2002, p.9), who defines special event as a significant gathering or activity which takes place in a social setting.

Event product, as defined by Yeoman et al. (2006, p.19), is a unique mix of activities which are the tools for achieving the event aims and satisfying needs of customers.

Goldlatt (2005, p.xi) informs that the term party is taken from Old French term “parti” which means divided.

Theorist such as Getz  states, “Mega events, by way of their size or significance are those that yield extraordinarily high levels of tourism, media coverage or economic impact for the host community and destinations.” (Getz, 1997, p.39)

Hildreth (1990, p.1) describes a meeting as a planned communication between two or more people which has been arranged in order to achieve a common purpose. Also there is an argument that ‘the term ‘meetings’ is used in its broadest sense and should be interpreted as covering conferences, conventions, seminars, workshops and symposiums’ (Johnson et al, 1999, p.7)

 

The Evolution of Events Industry 

The events industry, like any other industry has undergone a process of evolution. Four factors affecting event growth is proposed by Goldblat (2000, p.8) as followings:

1.            Demographic change from young to old age population.

2.            Significant advances in technology.

3.            Shifts in disposable income among population.

4.            Time shifts for recreation from defined time to undefined time.

According to Naisbitt (1990, p.34) technology has contributed significantly to the development of evens industry in a way that people spend huge amount of time online and/or interacting with technology in any other form as a result of which they feel need sometimes to interact with the human beings as well, and therefore some of them chose to attend events where there are many people at all times.

Crompton (1995, pp.98-99) suggests following external factors that have stimulated the growth of sponsorship for special events:

First, the rapid increase in the number of television channels, radio stations and magazines made it possible for a greater number of people who have not participated in the actual event to know about the details of the special event from long distances which increased the efficiency of the marketing of brands and products which were promoted during the special events.

Second, the increase of the cost of television advertising made marketing executives of companies to look for alternative methods of advertising which was found in the case of sponsoring special events.

Third, the introduction of colour television resulted in more people watching special events on TV increasing the efficiency of event sponsorships.

Fourth, the ban of tobacco and alcohol advertisements on television meant that companies producing such products seeking alternative advertising methods, like sponsoring special events.

Fifth, the commercialisation of sport events gave tremendous opportunities for companies to sponsor events which were watched by millions of people.

Sixth, the success of sponsorship of 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games brought the attention of marketing researchers and practitioners to the sponsoring special events as an efficient marketing strategy.

Seventh, the acceptance and implementation of market segmentation concept has also aided the growth of the sponsorship of special events in a way that companies began to identify the audiences of each event and sponsor the ones, whose audience consisted of companies customer target segment.

Eighth, increased competition in markets; mergers and takeovers proved that new means of marketing were necessary in order to stay ahead in the competition. Thus, marketers began looking at sponsoring special events as such new alternatives.

Ninth, financial difficulties in local areas hosting the special events increased the level of sponsorship of such events.

 

Categorisation of special events

Categorisation of special events according to their common features was necessary in order to study them in a more efficient manner. Many authors offer various forms of categorization of events and festivals according to their characteristics and functions.

Shone and Perry (2004, p.4) categorize special events into four following groups:

1.            Leisure events: leisure, sports, recreation…

2.            Cultural events: ceremonial, sacred, heritage, art, folklore…

3.            Organizational events: commercial, political, charitable, sales…

4.            Personal events: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries…

This categorization is done according to the type of the events.

Getz (1997, p.43) classifies events into three following sectors:

  • Private, profit-orientated organizations
  • Non-profit or voluntary organizations
  • Government agencies or public groups

It can be seen that the above categorization by Getz is undertaken on the basis of whether the event is intended to produce the profit or not. The aim of the private, profit-oriented organizations as the name implies is to attract profits by the means of events. It can include events for which people have to purchase tickets in order to see them. Other types of private, profit oriented events include corporate meetings, marketing events and others.

Some events are organized by non-profit organizations in order to raise awareness of the public and to bring attention to specific sociological or economic problems. For example, events may be organized to raise the awareness of the public about the condition of human rights in other countries, or to bring the attention of governments and companies to the issues of global warming etc. Such kinds of events do not generate any profits and their objectives are intangible. These events are usually organized with the help of volunteers funded by volunteer and charity contributions.

Also government agencies and public groups sometimes organize events which have specific objectives which have benefits to the relevant parties. Such events can include the celebration of memorable days and events, and also raising the awareness of people regarding some issue.

Arcodia and Alastair (2000, p. 156) classify events into following categories:

1.            Events, which include mega-events, major events, hallmark events, signature events, and special events;

2.            Festivals, consisting of community celebrations, community entertainment, historical commemorations, multicultural celebrations, seasonal events and  religious celebrations;

3.            M.I.C.E. include conferences, congress conventions, exhibitions, forums, incentives, meetings, seminars and symposiums

Damster et al. (2005, p.10) propose following classification of events:

•             “Events” consist of two groups: planned and unplanned;

•             “Planned events” can by two types: routine, ordinary or common and special events;

•             “Special events” can be divided in two categories: minor special events and major special events;

•             “Major special events” can be in two forms: hallmark events and mega events

Corporate events, according to Rogers (1998, p.27) may have the following formats:

  • Annual meetings/board meetings. These are organized for senior level management of a company to discuss and make decisions regarding strategic issues
  • Exhibitions are usually organized to introduce products and services the company is offering in the marketplace.
  • Training courses and seminars are organized for the staff in order to increase their qualifications.
  • Travel events are the one which relates to transferring from one destination to the other.
  • Technical and sales conferences are organized specifically to address the technical issues of the company, or to discuss the issues related to the sales.
  • New product launches involves organizing events with the aim of informing existing and potential customers of the company about new products and services the company is introducing to the marketplace.
  • Team-building events are aimed to the staff of the company and have objectives of strengthening team spirit and respect for each-other.

The following event styles are listed by Allen (2009, p.14): a) traditional, b) classic, c) modern; c) country, d) cultural, e) formal elegance, f) casual elegance, g) romantic; h) fun, i)  intimate, j) outdoor, k) themed, l) seasonal, m) holiday, n) beach, and o) sports.

Dividing the organization and execution of special events into phases is undertaken by Matthews (2008, p.14). First, concept and proposal phase, during which the plan of the event will be designed, the event objectives will be identified and the matters like financing and execution will be decided. Second, marketing and sales phase which involves the marketing of the event to potential customers and sponsors alike. Third, coordination phase during which the proposed plan of the special event will be coordinated and the last-minute changes will be implemented. Fourth, execution phase which is the actual realization of the special event according to the plan. And fifth, follow-up phase which is the evaluation of the event in terms of achieving the objectives and analysing the mistakes

Generic benefits, as claimed by Damster et al. (2005, p.7) distinguish special events from permanent attractions, and also, according to Damster at al. (2005, p.7), as taken from Getz (1991, pp.124-125), generic benefits consist of following groups: spectacle, ritual, games, sense of belonging, and authenticity.

 

Objectives of Special Events

Any event that is planned and orchestrated has a set of aims and objectives it is intended to achieve. “Event objectives can be both tangible and intangible and can be met pre-event, during the event, and post-event, and become the bridge, platform and positioning to meeting the next level of objectives for future events” (Allen, 2009, p.33)

Wendroff (2004, p.2) lists seven goals for a successful non-profit special event:

1. Raise money for the cause which is being promoted

2. Update the mission statement to educate your constituency

3. Motivate board members and major givers

4. Recruit volunteers and future board members

5. Expand the organization’s network

6. Market the organization to the public and relevant parties

7. Solicit endorsements from the public, private sector, and the governments

Devney (2001, p.9) states that the goals of special events and conferences are following:

•             Raise funds for a company or a specific cause

•             Build a spirit among long-term members

•             Facilitate information distribution/exchange

•             Recruit new members for an organization

•             Celebrate specific dates and events

•             Attract publicity to a new product, event or cause

Consideration of following seven key points is proposed by Allen (2009, pp.9-10), when formulating the event vision:

1.            Location of the proposed event

2.            Date of the event

3.            Season in which the event will be held

4.            Time of the day when the event is scheduled

5.            Whether the event will be held indoor or outdoor

6.            In how many locations the event will be held

7.            Budget considerations of the event

The list of the most important core attributes of special events is proposed by Jago and Shaw (1998, p.28) as the following:

•             Being unique and extraordinary;

•             Having a great economic impact;

•             Attracting the attention of media;

•             Raising the image or profile of the local region;

•             Being infrequent or one-off occurrences;

•             Having a limited duration;

•             Offering a social experience;

•             Contributing to tourism development.

 

Event Management as a Project Management

Event management has been compared to project management in other industries in order to study them more efficiently.  The following table is the illustration of the project management comparison across industries proposed by O’Toole (2000, p.96) and was devised on the basis of work proposed by Dinsmore (1999):

Aspect of a Project Engineering and Civil Works Information Technology Project Event Management
Organisation Structure Concurrent structure fairly autonomous network within a traditional company or bureaucracy Network of experts Vary – often entrepreneurial
Time A major priority Often has overruns as the product is not as well defined Absolutely must meet the deadline.
Risk Management Systematic methodology developed -tested many times A developing methodology Varied and event dependent
Cost A major priority A major priority however cost overruns are common A priority
Content/end Product Fixed and decided upon Variable due to change insoftware and new problems To a degree variable
Site plan Overriding constraint Inapplicable Overriding project constraint
Human resources Skilled staff essential Highly specialist staff essential Staff ranges from volunteers to specialists
Planning Planning, thenImplementation Planning and implementation often at the same time with feedback. Planning and implementation overlap
Implementation May take years and is completed Is on-going Actual event may be over in hours.
Dynamic and responding to change Not a high priority A high priority A high priority

 

The Role of Volunteers in Special Events 

One of the main distinctive features of event is that it can attract volunteers and in this way can save considerable amount of funds. Volunteers do usually participate in events organized by non-profit organizations promoting some course for the benefit of society or the universe in general. However, in some cases volunteers can be also attracted in private special events for various reasons, including, experience, thrills, etc. In all cases event organizers gain huge benefits attracting volunteers in their events. In order to achieve this event managers must have the knowledge and expertise of attracting volunteers to the course they are promoted

Silvers (2004) list three main reasons why volunteers participate in events:

Firstly, willingness to contribute to the cause or the organization motivates the volunteers.

Secondly, volunteers strive to gain recognition for their contribution to the cause.

Thirdly, desire to feel being a part of the community attracts volunteers to the causes.

Wagen (2007, p.232) proposes following motivational tools for event managers to motivate event staff and volunteers:

•             Daily event operations;

•             Tickets;

•             Sponsor products;

•             Loyalty schemes;

•             Loyalty bonuses;

•             Celebrity meetings;

•             Photo boards;

•             Briefings and debriefings;

•             Daily newsletters;

•             Posters;

•             Food and beverage surprises;

•             Parade of volunteers;

•             Media support for volunteers;

•             Games;

•             Entertainment;

•             Concluding party for staff;

•             Certificates of appreciation.

 

Factors of Success in Event Management

According to Bowdin et al (2006, p.144) the core of every successful event are planning and managing human resources in an efficient manner. This opinion has been stressed by other researches as well due to the fact that the special events are organized by people, and they play more important role compared to other factors like technology due to the nature of event business. Bowdin et al. (2006, p.99) also stress the objectives of a successful events such as satisfying needs of the stakeholders such as host organization, local community, media and people involved.

Three elements of special events are suggested by Levy and Marion (1997, p.14) as visibility, cultivation and income. Visibility and cultivation are necessary to promote the special events, and the income is the main objective of many events.

Following ten keys to successful event management is proposed by Catherwood and Kirk (1992, p.17):

1.            Meticulous planning of the event;

2.            Dealing with infrastructure first;

3.            Dealing with sponsorship issues;

4.            Achieving the support of public for the event;

5.            Efficiently dealing with pre-promotion issues;

6.            Taking advantage of smaller communities;

7.            Involving local communities in various stages of the event;

8.            Using economic impact when dealing with local communities;

9.            Using available venues instead of building whenever possible in order to save costs;

10.          Using volunteers which can also save costs significantly.

 

Skills Required for an Efficient Event Manager

The importance of leadership style in event management process have been highlighted by many authors, including Goldblatt (2005, p.159). Indeed, the leadership style of the event manager influences the overall outcome of the event in a way that either it increases the efficiency of all event staff or decreases it. Watt (1988, p.31) supports this stand stating that personality and leadership style play an important role on the process and outcome of the event.

Goldblatt (2005, pp. xx-xxi) lists the following duties of an event leader:

a)      Provide strategic planning of the event;

b)      Cultivate business development;

c)       Control financial operations with the aim if saving where possible not compromising the quality

d)      Standardize operations systems and procedures;

e)      Facilitate human resources;

f)       Create the actual event;

g)      Orchestrate the event according to the plan.

Event managers, according to Goldblatt (2005, p.8), should remember the specific purpose of the event all of the time when conducting his duties and event purposes are represented by following four activities: celebration, education, marketing, and reunion.

According to Matthews (2008, p.9), the skills required by event producer are;

•             Organizational ability. This is necessary in every stage of event planning and orchestration;

•             Creative ability to put forward creative ideas and produce original events;

•             Technical interest in each aspect of event planning and orchestration;

•             Financial acumen in order to spend the event budget with maximum returns;

•             Writing ability which is required for internal and external communication;

•             Speaking ability to communicate efficiently with staff, volunteers, sponsors and customers

•             Computer skills to prepare Gant-charts, spread-sheets etc.

•             An ethical and moral grounding in order to lead the staff more efficiently and to increase the level of trust in the event.

•             Personality traits has been also mentioned as a necessary skill for an event producer

Event managers have to communicate with various parties in the course of their duties. This includes the suppliers for the event. According to Allen (2002, p.34) suppliers an event planner may use include:

•             Airlines

•             Destination management companies

•             Caterers

•             Decor companies

•             Entertainment

•             Florists

•             Hotels

•             Printers and designers

•             Promotional companies

•             Restaurants

•             Special effects companies

•             Other suppliers

•             Tourist boards

•             Transportation companies

•             Venues

Tum et al. (2006, p.7) indicate to the four following functions event operations manager has to undertake: detailed planning, analysis, implementation and delivery, and performance evaluation.

Anderson (2010, p.3) lists the characteristics of competent event managers as the following:

•             Well organized with attention to detail;

•             Ability to multi-task;

•             Honest and ethical;

•             Outgoing with social skills;

•             Ability to meet people;

•             Listening skills;

•             Communication skills;

•             Ability to motivate others;

•             Treating people with respect;

•             Ability to delegate;

•             Hardworking;

•             Ability to handle stress;

•             A sense of humour;

•             Resourceful and creative vision;

•             Knows their limits;

•             Business knowledge;

•             Computer skills.

Also there various organizations which provide training courses for those individuals who want to become professionals in events sector. Raj et al (2008, p.8) list twelve leading organizations which support The Events Sector Training Organization:

ACE   Association for Conferences and Events

ABPCO   Association of British Professional Conference Organisers

AEO   Association of Exhibition Organizers

BECA   British Exhibition Contractors Association

EVA   Exhibition Venues Association

ITMA   Incentive Travel & Meetings Association

MIA   Meeting Industry Association

MPI   (UK) Meeting Professionals International

MUTA   Made-Up Textiles Association

NEA   National Exhibitors Association

NOEA   National Outdoor Events Association

TESA   The Event Services Association

 

Crowd Management in Events

Crowd management is an important aspect of managing events due to the fact that if this aspect is not dealt with efficiency the whole success of the event can be put at risk, and in some occasions it can even lead to chaos in special events. However in order to manage the crowd efficiently the communication with the crowd should be in place.

Communication is very important in order to manage the crowd efficiently. Watt (1998, p.37) lists the following objectives of effective communication:

•             To send a message

•             To ensure the message is received

•             To ensure the massage is understood

•             To achieve corrective action

•             To exchange information

Following five methods of communication is also mentioned by Watt (1998, pp. 39-41):

Verbal communication is one of the main forms of communication which is used when coordinating events. However, the efficiency of verbal communication may be compromised during some events due to the large noise etc.

Non-verbal communication includes gestures, body language and facial expressions. This form of communication is used in crowd management to emphasize the message or when the message is not being understood by the receiver due to the noise.

Written communication in crowd management may include written notes giving directions etc. In order the efficiency of written communication in such instances to be increased the messages must be kept short and they must be noticeable.

Visual communication is rarely used as a primary method of communication when managing crowd during events, however, it is an efficient method of communication to be exercised among the members of staff during special events.

Electronic communication involves the use of technology in forms of radios, fax, internet, Ethernet, and computers. This form of communication is very efficient to interact with the members of event staff, as well as event audience.

 

Event Success Evaluation Methods

There are many event success evaluation methods which have been proposed by authors. Getz (2000, p.67) states that economic performance is considered to be the leading indicator to measure the success of any events from the points of view of stakeholders.

The following events evaluation measures taking into account the type of events are also proposed by Getz (2000, p.19):

1.            Economic Development and Tourism

a)            Market share of specific event or events sector in a specific region

b)            Economic impact of the event, including offering employment for people

c)            Sustainability of events. This measure implies self-supporting aspect of events

d)            Competitive advantage of events compared to the events in other places

e)            Image enhancement aspect of the event, including the scale of publicity the event was able to attract and the effect of the event on consumer decisions

f)             Occupancy rates of events. This measure includes aiding hotel and transportation business in the region and customers as well.

2.            Community

a)            The level of political support the event was able achieve and the rate of local attendance

b)            Willingness to pay for the event

c)            The level of volunteer support the event was able attract

d)            The achievement of the event in terms of fostering the spirit of community and pride.

3.            Art and Culture

a)            The achievement of the event in terms of showcasing and developing local talent

b)            Provision of the event in terms of providing cultural and/or artistic experiences for the local community

c)            The achievement of the event in terms of fund-raising and fostering community interest and understanding.

4.            Sport

a)            Training benefit if the event for event participants

b)            The achievement of the event in terms of building interest in sport

5.            Business

a)            The achievement of the event in terms of networking, increasing sales, and developing new business contacts

b)            The achievement of the event in terms of learning about new products and services

6.            Facilities and Attractions

a)            Measurement of generating revenue

b)            The achievement of the event in terms of promoting the facility

7.            Political

The measurement of the event in terms of propaganda effectiveness

Devney (2001, p.21) states the common evaluation methods for fund-raising events remain to be profit and number of people attended. A critical point Devney fails to notice is that the attitude of the public towards the fund-raising organization after the event can also be considered as an evaluation method for fund-raising events. For example, a fund-raising event may have achieved a high profit and increased number of people attendance. This fund-raising event can still be considered inefficient if the event staff were too pushy, and the increased profit from the event was resulted from the event staff pushing people too hard to contribute to the cause. In such occasions, people usually contribute some funds to the cause, but the general attitude towards the organization facilitating the fund-raising will be negative because of the methods the staff employing and this fact will affect negatively to the company organizing fund-raising in the long-term.

Along with all social and economic benefits of special events Dwyer et al (2000, p.35) also warn about social and economic costs which can be resulted by special events:

1.            Social costs

a)            Disruption to resident lifestyles. Not everyone living in the area will be enthusiastic about special events held locally. Besides there may be sick people or small children who can be negatively affected by the event.

b)            Noise is almost always associated with many events, which can disturb local people and travellers in the area.

c)            Vandalism is sometimes conducted before, during, or after the event by hooligans, young people and/or drunk people

d)            Crowding is inevitable in many events and it can cause other undesirable experiences such as violence and fights

e)            Crime. Some people attend special events with other purpose than enjoy the events. Their purpose may consist of looking for opportunities to steal something from event audience or participants

f)             Property damage. People living in local areas and sometimes even members of event audience can be a victim of their properties being damaged as a result of vandalism, fight, etc.

2.            Economic Costs

a)            Interruption to normal businesses trading locally is one of the main disadvantages of special events.

b)            Under-utilised infrastructure can be mentioned as another negative cause of special events.

Backman et al (1995, pp. 15 – 24) point to intangible reasons, including socio-cultural, economic, political and environmental when explaining who do communities chose to host a festival.

 

The Future of Events Industry

Getz (2000, p.15) identified following research gaps and priorities on the topic of special events:

•             Forces and trends affecting events (environmental scanning)

a)            Demographics

b)            Economics

c)            Technology

d)            Culture and values

•             Trends in research (strengths and weaknesses)

a)            Continued growth

b)            Strategic event development

c)            Special purpose event venues

d)            Sponsorship

e)            Accountability

f)             Legal matters

g)            Professionalism

h)            Private sector initiatives

•             Disciplinary perspectives (what other fields can contribute)

•             Industry perspective (what business needs)

•             Community perspectives (social service)

•             Management systems approach

•             Professional associations (reflecting practitioner needs)

•             Practitioner input (what they say they need)

Explaining the necessity of researches into events industry Goldblatt (2000, p.2) mentions three theories which have direct impact into the profession of events management:

Firstly, the profession of event management is experiencing significant growth and also experiencing the transition from growth stage to the maturity stage, therefore it is necessary to examine and understand the industry and the profession in great depth.

Secondly, there is a lack of reporting procedures and standardisation tools required to gather and analyse data which would assist relevant parties in decision making processes. This lack of standardisation is adding to the fact that some government agencies and private sector do not take the event industry seriously which is necessary for the industry for its long term functioning.

Thirdly, the fact that events industry is operated in a reactionary style does not contribute to the long term prestige of event managers. Researches are necessary to identify measures which will assist to equip event managers with strategic planning tools which will enable them to forecast and plan accordingly not only short-term, but also long-term as well. In other words event managers should be proactive rather than reactive

Pine and Gilmore (1999, p.42) point to the tendency of people looking for “high touch” experiences fuelled by the advance of the technology and events can be used to provide them such experiences. To justify their stand they mention numerous examples where companies spent big amount of cash in order to illuminate their event stages in an extraordinary styles and other measures implemented to astonish the audience using technology.

 

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