This is a guest post by Adrian Bossey, Head of Cultural Management and Production at Falmouth University, who devised the University’s new online-led MA Creative Events Management in partnership with CEG Digital, part of Cambridge Education Group.
“With roughly two thirds of organisers still expecting their events to grow, 20% planning on budget increases and 28% looking to hire for new positions, this is still an industry with many more opportunities than challenges” (Eventbrite Pulse Report 2016).
The world of events is, however, evolving as the world of work changes. And, like everyone, event planners – whether they are in corporate or cultural sectors – need to keep pace with developments in their world.
For example machines can now carry out tasks cost effectively which were until recently impossible. This trend is expected to accelerate and will in turn create an impact upon audiences for events and the availability/conceptualisation of ‘leisure time’.
Human activity is also changing the world, creating a need for all of us to use the planet’s resources in a sustainable way to protect access for future generations. Event managers can both reduce the impact of their events on the environment and lead by example in doing so.
Utilise digital technology
Professional event management practice is evolving rapidly, in part as a response to technological change and environmental considerations, but also through creative innovation.
Earlier this year the DCMS Culture White Paper reported that “technology is expanding the ways in which we make and experience culture; the digital dimension is becoming a ‘place’ in itself”.
There is a growing need, and opportunity, for events planners – whether they are working commercially or in the community – to utilise digital technology to run events which in turn connect people anywhere in the world.
Changing the concept of ‘live’
As technology develops, more and more can be achieved online, and the concept of what ‘live’ means will change.
Take events in the music industry, for example. In 2014, Elton John performed five songs on a Yamaha Disklavier piano to a large invited audience in Los Angeles, as part of Yamaha Music’s 125th anniversary. This performance was networked live to 11 other pianos around the world, providing remote audiences with a glimpse of one potential future for live music, where global audiences are linked by a moment in time whilst sharing a physical group experience.
If you can network 12 pianos, why not 120 or 1200, which could be augmented by live musicians at each venue and holograms of the star performer, all perfectly in sync? Audience acceptance of, and reactivity, to live screen based performances appears to be growing and the potential for wider engagement is huge.
Digitisation gives millions of people who cannot physically visit an event or performance the opportunity to experience it remotely.
Creatively, the digital arena opens up new opportunities for artists and event pioneers to develop creative perspectives and approaches to delivering events on a local, national and global scale. In April 2015, Ultraorbsim was a networked interactive performance theatre work, conceived and developed by Marcel-li Antúnez Roca, incorporating Cheap Date Dance Company, actors, live painting and animation. The event created a live performance, with elements (and audiences) in Santa Monica, Barcelona and Falmouth, and was awarded an Excellence Award at the 19th Japan Media Arts Festival.
Multiple emerging digital event frontiers demand new skills from event managers and create the opportunity to act as pioneers in this brave new world.
Importance of sustainability and the environment
The emphasis on doing things sustainably should be at the heart of our thinking and we are seeing events managers respond to this.
Four years ago, London 2012 aimed to be the most sustainable Olympics in modern times by focusing on climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion and healthy living. Whilst this approach drove some clear exemplars of good practice, such as recycling, some commentators also felt that more could have been achieved. Nevertheless the international framework ISO 20121, launched for London 2012, represents a useful tool for all events managers.
The scale of the sustainability challenge facing different event sectors varies. In the music industry, a study by Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute found that the live music performance sectors, together with audience travel, account for 75% of the UK music industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the travel and tourism industry, the market for cruise ships has experienced significant growth – around 24 million passengers are expected to sail this year compared to 1.4 million in 1980 – but this comes at a clear environmental cost.
There is much that events managers could and should be doing to directly reduce impact on the environment, and evidence suggests that some audiences respond positively to a commitment to sustainability. The Greener Festival finding that 49.8% of festival goers will pay an increased ticket price to reduce a festival’s environmental impact is one example. Furthermore, possibilities clearly exist to employ digital event technology to further reduce event impacts, in particular around audience travel.
Personal and professional development
Against a backdrop of rapid and impactful change, the importance of continuing education and professional development for event professionals cannot be overstated.
Up-to-date knowledge and understanding is key to the innovative delivery of creative, effective and impactful events that are on brief and within budget. High quality, sector-specific continuing education provides event professionals with the opportunity to accelerate their career trajectory by enhancing their professional practice, critically evaluating current challenges and horizon scanning within a demanding, ever evolving and rapidly expanding global industry.
Personal development in areas such as project management, marketing and production, entrepreneurship and product development, collaborative working, risk and health and safety analysis – can all assist with the delivery of corporate or community events in a creative way. Education around event impacts and future trends of ‘leisure time’ can potentially be powerfully transformative for event managers who need to stay ahead of the game.
There is also value in formalising existing knowledge and training from demonstrably excellent education and training providers, which is both quality assured and leads to formal qualifications.
Individual learning around research, transferrable skills and a consideration of digital and sustainable futures as factors of strategic event development and delivery, should be particularly valuable. Event professionals may especially benefit from a part-time or online mode of delivery which enables them to continue their working practice and apply their learning immediately to their employment.
In some respects the importance of continuing education for event professionals is reflective of the sector wide trends seen in Eventbrite’s Pulse Report this year – “In 2015 the most popular reason for people running events was ‘Networking’; in 2016 this is ‘Education & Training’”.