I the past moths I have been following the big debate on the topic of event degree vs. experience. What is the value of an event management degree in an industry that requires hands-on experience?
We all know that event management is not a rocket science and if you decide to set up your event company all you need is a phone and a computer – so basically everyone with any background can be in the events business.
I my opinion, none of the arguments is right or wrong. The question is whether you want to play in the premier league, think of FC Chelsea, or for the fun of it for your university or community teams.
To better demonstrate my argument I want to bring an example from a world I am well familiar with – gastronomy.
As event management, cooking is also not a rocket science. I am a good cook. I love to host dinner parties and invite friends and family over and they love my cooking. I haven’t been to a cooking school but I cooked already for as much as 70 people and sold it to raise money. That was a great experience and I got good feedback on my cooking. I started by trying recipes I found on the internet and cooking books. Now, think of someone who went to one of the best cooking schools in the world, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Looking on the website, the school offers theoretical and practical courses in all disciplines, more than 25 different courses with top professors with relevant backgrounds, expertise and connections. In addition, the school has a network of Alumni who are involved and willing to assist the graduates. So who is better- off?
Now think of the Chefs Anton Mosimann from Mosimann’s Club, one of the most prestigious dining clubs in London and probably in the world and Alain Ducasse from The Dorchester hotel, a five star property in central London. They serve prominent customers and the menu, not including drinks, starts from £ 90. Both started in an early age of 15-16 with an apprenticeship with formal education on the side, and worked their way up. To work in their service or kitchen team candidates have to have a similar background and track work record from top establishments. If we look at a more current example, I recently read an interesting article about a girl from India who introduced Macarons in India. Even though her family have been running baking business she still went to get a formal education from a prestigious institution, Le Cordon Bleu. Upon returning to India she opened a shop which expanded to three additional outlets and has celebrities on her client list.
The same is with events industry. You have to know the foundations, such as event budgeting, measurement of ROI, risk and crowd management, HR, law and sustainability practices in events and the list goes on.
Both the gastronomy and event industries require long working hours and the returns on investment are not visible until some years into the career. Yes you have to volunteer and work long hours and do the work you don’t always like (I am sure peeling potatoes for Alain Ducasse is not the dream job) but in the end the efforts will pay off.
Now I can ask the same question again: What is the value of an event management degree in an industry that requires hands- on experience? Who do you think is more likely to charge a premium price and have two months of waiting list for their services, the student with an event management degree + experience or only experience?
It is up to you how you want to be positioned in the industry – the expert with event management education who can charge a premium price and deliver sophisticated events, those which also meet objectives and within budgets plus be the market leader organising events for celebrities? Or the amateur event planner who will take every job that comes in to break even in the end of the month?
Of course there are successful local restaurant serving the local community. But they are there to satisfy a basic need- food. Fine dining will play on all your senses and provide you with a memorable experience. And in many cases, in the event industry, we are selling experiences.