On Monday we are going to tackle what seems to be the biggest industry debate so far – the importance of event management degrees vs. hands-on industry experience.
There is a big misconception between what general public thinks, what event industry thinks and what academia thinks about event management degrees. I have heard many opinions against event management degrees, the main one being that you can learn everything on the job, but I also know event graduates who secured high profile event management potions in major corporations and agencies thanks to their degrees, hard work and persistence.
According to last year panel at the International Confex, it seems that the debate comes from the gap between what academia provides and what industry needs. The panel, Academia meets Industry to address the ‘real industry’, emphasized that employers look for graduates with experience and therefore degree from any discipline will do, because student will acquire skills such as time management, group work etc.
Looking back, I gained lots of valuable knowledge from different courses during my International Events Management degree at Regent’s University London and I am extremely happy and grateful to Regent’s for all the resources they have provided me during the degree and still keep supporting me as their alumni with valuable networking opportunities.
What did we learn on the course?
First year was very basic, including finance, project management, HR etc. As in every degree you will find courses you like less and ones you like most. There were couple which I extremely enjoyed including:
International destination management for which we had to analyse destination from a MICE perspective and had trips to Liverpool, Newcastle and Edinburgh which also were the first destinations to be featured on my blog. For destination analysis I picked Seoul and wrote a full report on it inculding hotel capacity, main sectors, venues accessibility etc.
An event that put Liverpool on the map
The famous Cavern Club where The Beatles started their career is also popular for incentives
There is no trip to Liverpool without watching a football game – Everton vs. Chelsea
For business strategy in events we had to choose an event as a group assignment and strategically analyse it, including internal and external analysis, objectives and mission and vision statements, look at the culture, branding and so on. We chose Taste of London and it was very interesting looking into this event and how it developed over the past years – was acquired, expanded the brand to Taste of Christmas and now Taste brand is present globally, adapting to local needs at each destination.
At strategic communication in international events I mostly enjoyed the sustainability report assignment where I had to pick an event of choice – I picked The World Economic Forum – and conducted a full analysis looking at sustainability, CSR, crisis management and PR. Again, it was very interesting because since its debut in 1971 the event grew five times while still taking place in the small Swiss resort Davos.
These topics really opened my eyes to see events from a more global perspective and critically analyse the event at every level.
And lastly, I enjoyed my dissertation. I wanted to focus on event ROI because it is extremely important and find out how to measure it. Reaching out to industry professionals and seeing how they measured it (or not!) was absolutely useful and now I feel confident to speak about it with clients and have a solid, both academic and practical point of view to support my arguments. I doubt that I could “learn it on the job”.
To these course materials, we had guest speakers, compulsory placement and study period abroad, mentors and access to the vast university resources.
What event management degrees can do better?
In my opinion there are two aspects event management degrees should be doing from first semester to bring academia closer to the industry. First of all work closely with event agencies and ask them to share real event briefs so students can develop their own events based on such briefs. I have seen couple of briefs during placements but unfortunately none during my event degree. After the event took place I don’t see a reason why not to re-use the brief so students can learn from it.
Secondly, academia should be focusing more on the financial part and from early stage increase commercial awareness of students. Sometimes I felt it was too much marketing focused but it has to be more analytical and ROI focused – because, as I remember from Meetovation seminar in Copenhagen “clients host events to save money or make money”. The topic of event ROI, in my opinion should be discussed from semester one until the end of the degree and to be integrated in every event related assignment and exam.
Coming to conclusion, I have to emphasise one important aspect – event students should be very active during their degree and not expect being spoon fed. Attending industry exhibitions or other events of interest (most of them are for free in London), offering to work there, get contact details of speakers, engage on social media and so on will give students considerable advantage upon graduation, be it looking for a job or deciding to start own business.
To conclude, event management degree won’t guarantee you a job in the events industry and maybe you don’t even need one. But, you still have a long way to go to secure the right job that will be fulfilling, both personally and financially. From my experience, it requires presence, very high level of flexibility and both face to face and online networking. To add, you will realise the importance of networking only after about 2-3 after you meet the person.
If you are a student reading this article, go out and network with industry professionals, attend events, visit venues, write a blog and show your passion and determination. If you are a professional, be helpful to such students because the ones who make the effort will eventually succeed and you want them on your side.
And I can go on and on with this topic – I am so passionate about it and happy to see that things are shaping into the right direction and academia is fighting to get their degrees recognised by the industry. I am also happy to see the raising standards of events and requirements on behalf of clients.
I look forward to chatting with you about this on Monday, 9th February from 9-10pm GMT and see what else can be done so both the academia and the industry can support each other. Don’t forget to use #EventPlannersTalk hashtag and follow @themiceblogHQ for all updates. For reminder you can also join the event on Facebook.
Q1: Do you need an event management degree to get a job in the events industry?
Q2: Do you think employers value event management degrees?
Q3: What advantages event management students have over the ones who didn’t study it?
Q4: Are event degrees teaching what industry requires or there is a gap between the two?
Q5: What universities should be doing to make their students more employable?
Q6: Events industry doesn’t stay still – what resources can event managers use for self-development and further education?
Q7: “Employers value experience” – how can employers support event students with little or no experience?