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Event Management is a multi-million dollar industry ($17.36 billion annually according to CareerOne), which is growing rapidly in Australia. MICE (Meetings, Incentives and Events), exhibitions, conferences and seminars as well as live music and sporting events are held regularly in most major cities. The industry includes events of all sizes from the Olympics down to a breakfast meeting for ten business people.
Header images: Born Into; Optical Itzak 2; Estonian Jewellery; John Lewis/The Boy who Wanted to Touch the Moon; John Power/VJ Mix
Original publication: Desktop Magazine 2007
Republished with permission
What used to be an elite set of corporate brands splashing out on major roadshows has now developed into an essential tool for most companies. Products and services need to be seen, touched and experienced. A conference, trade show or festival allows the selected target market to come close and be exposed to brands they may have not noticed or not had a chance to experience any other way. Every industry, charity, society and group will hold events of some type/size in order to market themselves, raise money or celebrate.

It can take months and a team of specialised acrobats to put together an event, ensuring everything comes together in a synchronised schedule. A recent search on yellowpages.com.au shows a grand sum of 3770 function centres and organisers in Australia, but only 29 of these have an event management service. So who is out there creating all these memorable occasions?

It’s actually fairly difficult to find yourself in a job that doesn’t involve some elements of event management: either on the logistics and technical side or in the front line of sales, marketing or project management. However, it takes a very special personality type to decide to make the deadline driven event sector a career choice.

If you thrive on adrenalin there are many creative roles to choose from in this area. All events, from large to small, require a creative strategy. Most require media development, graphic design, public relations, copywriting and strategic relations.

Stephen Raphael, Venue Services Manager at Staging Connections, Melbourne, says one of the most important elements of a successful event is the style, direction and creative elements. It has to be perfect for the occasion, and somehow fit into everyone’s budget and expectations.

Raphael says getting comments like this one from Edwina Ogilvie at KPMG is one of the highlights of the role “The room looked absolutely sensational and created a lovely atmosphere that was the perfect setting for the dinner. Thank you to you and your team for the fantastic effort that you put in and your generosity in delivering exactly what I was after regardless of the effort that it took.”

To succeed as an Event Manager you must be able to thrive in high stress environments. The one element all EM roles have in common is the pressure to work to a cascading mix of deadlines that just cannot be moved.

If that doesn’t scare you away then you will also need experience in a number of key areas: project management of events, negotiating audio-visual and event staging requirements, supervision and mentoring of staff, and liaising with clients, venue and staff to ensure excellent service delivery.

EM’s need to inspire confidence and be good at building and maintaining professional relationships with key clients, so employers look for proven leadership qualities, demonstrated sales experience, customer relations’ skills and a good knowledge of technical equipment. EM’s also need outstanding time management skills, organisational skills, excellent communication skills and familiarity with computer software and administrative procedures.

Event Managers and their creative teams may also be involved in more than just the planning and execution of the event, but also brand building, marketing and communication strategy. The event manager is an expert at the creative, technical and logistical elements that help an event succeed. This includes event design, audiovisual production, scriptwriting, logistics, budgeting, negotiation and, of course, client service.

Renata Roberts, General Manager of Melbourne’s highest and latest event centre at the 89th floor of Eureka Tower, says her role involves, “the general management of the business as a whole - marketing, operations: food and beverage, sales, finance as well as client liaising, negotiation, overseeing of sales and operational staff, event management, as well as liaising with and abiding by Eureka Tower Building Management regulations”.

If you are one of the rare people who can handle all that pressure on a fulltime basis then there are a large number of opportunities calling out for you. Event Management companies and consultancy firms have large teams of event coordinators who work with external clients to manage an event to the clients expectation.

The hotel, travel and hospitality industries thrive on events both internally and as a service to external venues.

Other areas tightly linked into the EM role are advertising agencies, public relations firms, large corporations, news media, not for profit organizations and integrated marketing communications companies.

Although the industry is large, demand for jobs within it is fierce. Most often it is only qualified graduates or those with a wealth of experience in a related field who will be able to get their foot in the door.

Malcolm Turner, Director of the Melbourne (MIAF) and London (LIAF) International Animation Festivals, explains that when he first started in the industry there were little or no tertiary courses around to cater to this field. Although he holds a Bachelor of Arts in theatre studies and English, he only learnt that his marketing skills were in need of a brush up when he undertook the role of Director of the Food and Wine Festival in Dunedin, “when there is money on the table it’s a whole different world”, says Turner.

Renata Roberts also holds a Bachelor of Arts (economics & political science), but has added post graduate diplomas in Business Marketing and Teaching to her repertoire. She is currently deferred from a Masters of Arts and is obviously not shy of collecting initials after her name. Many people in this field have a similar history with a mixture of education and experience.

APM Training Institute is one of the institutes who have been quick to add part-time and full-time courses in event management to their syllabus. Topics include project management, event law and contracts, client brief and integrated marketing communication. The college has more than 200 students. As well as event management it offers a variety of advanced diplomas and diploma courses in marketing, public relations, sports marketing and arts and entertainment marketing.

Turner says, “Most major events are founded by people who just have a gut instinct for the stuff, an ego, a healthy attitude and the ability to do without sleep, but a bit of practical training can certainly help”. Turner’s qualifications as a carpenter and pilot have also come in handy many times along the way.

Very few people will ever make it into this industry without training or experience in one form or another, but unlike many other highly skilled industries the events market has a unique subculture which feeds this niche – the world of the volunteer crew.

Most festivals and sporting events advertise for unpaid and volunteer workers in a variety of roles. The online services Screenhub and Artshub cater to this sector with weekly newsletters listing roles for unpaid workers.

Katherine Richmond works in a part time volunteer role at Museums Australia. Her role is aimed at improving the connections between business and the arts. Kate, who also works in a paid fulltime role, says she undertakes this volunteer role to increase her contacts and networks and helps get her foot in the door, but she also believes that she is helping others achieve a greater appreciation for the arts.

Turner also advocates volunteer roles as a way of gaining diverse skills. He has worked within or alongside volunteer crews on many theatre and festival events, and says they often have more power over their contribution to the organization than someone being paid. “It’s also a great way to witness people making a whole raft of mistakes, and clocking those ones up as experience under your belt”, says Turner. One of the key elements of an EM role is that mistakes tend to be big ones which cannot be rectified until the event is over. “They tend to haunt you all the way down to the end of the event”, says Turner, “and learning from others the process of identifying and rectifying these mistakes when they happen is critical to the job”

Turner takes on a volunteer crew for MIAF each year who undertake roles as diverse as timing and coding of the films, writing program notes, escorting visiting filmmakers and the ever important marketing tasks.

Terri Dentry is managing director of Sage Creative Placements Melbourne, a member company of the Sage Creative Placements group. Sage Creative Placements is a creative industries recruitment agency group with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. The Sage talent selection model values the skills and career direction of the candidate and matches them with clients and projects of the highest calibre. For more information visit: www.sagerecruit.com.au

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