I graduated from Regent’s University London with BA International Events Management end of 2014 and it’s incredible to think how many things have changed in the event business environment within this short period of time! Brexit, security, GDPR, VR, AI and social influencers are just few of the topics we barely covered during our degree but now are instrumental to our daily jobs.
Seeing the fast development in the skills set required by event managers today, universities won’t be able to cope with such speed to equip students with latest trends to kick start their career in the events industry. They give a solid foundation to start with, but this has to be reinforced with extra curriculum activities to stay competitive and be employable.
As we know different business areas in events will require different skills set, depending on the nature of business, and the good news is that most of them be can learned on the job. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can share with you what skills I taught myself to progress my career. Since I started my blog as a hobby in 2011, I expanded my digital activities to organise live events for my audience.
For me, for example, SEO and digital marketing are the two key areas I still today keep perfecting my skills at because they are constantly evolving. I must say it’s thanks to my blog that I thought myself these skills, from creating the blog to integrating the different social media platform, a lot was trial and error and exchanging knowledge with fellow bloggers.
I am convinced that knowing how to create a blog or build a website is a key skill required by event managers today. Many event businesses are small companies and not relying on an external company to create the website can save enormous costs. The next important skill, in my opinion, is to understand SEO so the clients will be able to find your business online. After these two are well mastered, digital marketing should be integrated to push out the content and increase brand awareness online. Social media for business requires strategic approach and either graduates can learn it by doing or learn from those who are already doing it. Furthermore, digital marketing is important because it helps build relationships, increase brand visibility and bring traffic to the website, among many others. Easier said than done, social media requires a hands on approach!
Lastly on my list is video. For me, there were two barriers to start video and vlogging. Firstly, not everyone feels comfortable in front of the camera, including me, so it took me some time to practice and be able to record myself followed by learning basic iMovie skills. Second barrier was cost if you want someone to do it for you. In the beginning I couldn’t invest in hiring someone to film my events, so luckily through a connection I was introduced to a video producer who made two videos for me for free. After seeing the positive impact on my blog traffic and increased engagement I decided to invest some of my marketing budget in video. I still think that many event professionals underestimate the power of video and among many costs we have for an event, video might be at the bottom of the list. So, if you don’t have the budget to invest in a professional video, just take your iphone, purchase nice background music and teach yourself iMovie. If I can everyone can 🙂
This is only my opinion on the range of skills required today to stay competitive in the events world. I think it’s a very important topic so I took the discussion to #EventPlannersTalk Twitter chat to exchange thoughts with other event professionals. Here is what we discussed with @_Billy_Ward, @weareintheevent, @NavyTuxEvents, @ILEA_UK and @blogbykobrak.
What has changed in the event landscape that event managers now require new skills set?
Most agreed that technology and social media seem to have changed the whole world, including the events industry.
There were mixed thoughts about event technology in particular. It’s clear that technology is the new norm and event professionals who embrace it can stay ahead of the competition but others thought that we are reaching a point where there is too much of it.
Event technology is involved in so many areas for events, including registration, marketing, ticketing, and attendee interaction. On the positive side, there is still so much space to explore in event technology and in such a competitive and fast pace market place, event tech companies should deliver new solutions. When dealing with multiple event technology providers, integration is key.
On the more conservative side, it can be also a fear, committing to the event technology that doesn’t live up to the promise. Relatively, event tech is still so young. We agreed that the industry will find new ways to be effective and our job is to pick the right one and most reliable. There is a lot of event technology offering the same services, but in the end the more will be introduced we will eventually narrow it down to set apps/tech that do it all!
What are the new skills required by event mangers today?
People’s needs and wants have evolved, such as that now everyone expects a fast paced delivery, so event professionals need to bring new skills at every opportunity.
We live in such a saturated market, that it’s more important than ever to think outside of the box and embrace innovation, open-minded management, less fear of tech and social media and diversify.
Furthermore wellbeing was named as a new skill required today, such as new calm and breathing techniques. There has to be a balance and more conscious effort to acknowledge and do something about wellbeing!
Lastly, digital in the broadest form is the biggest change to the events industry and the ability and confidence to use bold event tech at our events.
How can academia and industry narrow the gap between theory and practice?
A degree is like bringing out the ‘fine china’- no one cares! Academia opens the door to gaining real knowledge but experience is key so students should learn in the real world. Additionally, it’s important to be part of groups and associations like ILEA UK. Theory is always changing, and only backs up practical knowledge. It seems that a degree is expected and is very nice, but if you can’t actually manage an event, what’s the point? So practical work, and introducing students to different types of event jobs, i.e. agency/ professional services/experiential etc. can be a solution.
Furthermore, practical info is necessary, such as how to manage a budget sheet, use social media for events, dealing with clients etc. To introduce some of these skills, universities can ask for old agency briefs to showcase students the real industry and let them work on it. Another effective way to narrow the gap is for universities to connect with past students and bring them back as industry speakers! Guest speakers from the industry are also a way of giving students insights into the practical event world. Theory and practical experience need to be joined up from day one to enable continuous creativity.
I also asked #EventPlannersTalk community on Facebook, what they think about the new skills set required by event managers today and got more great feedback and insights.
Kim Goetze, Event Miracle Worker at InAnyEvent London, commented that event planners always had to be all-rounders and know where to source experts in fields they are not. The main skill required is to have knowledge of an even broader facet of experts and always be up to date with new technology!
Joanna Axinte, National Collaborative Outreach Programme Project Officer at University College Birmingham commented that event management is broad as you can work for a venue, agency, DMC etc. and different specialist skills will be needed. She thinks that developing those soft / transferable skills during university are vital, these include communication, negotiation, team work, personality, attitude towards work. All other skills can be learned if they’ve got the right attitude.
Helen Moon, Freelance Event Director & Event Blogger added that event managers these days need to start considering the bigger picture and where events sit within organisations as communication channels. GDPR regulations coming into effect as well as the ever increasing focus on ROI will force many to think and act much more objectively like the marketers that we truly are. Samme Allen, Managing Director at Sequoia Partnership added that sales and negotiation, content/campaign management and greater data skills will be needed too.