1.0 Executive Summary
This report was commissioned to ascertain if a critical awareness of future trends and issues is vital for events management professionals. In particular, this report has focussed on advances in technology and the impact that they have had on the events management sector. In completing the report, we have looked at the academic literature on the topic and the opinions of scholars thereof; the relevance of technology to events management professionals; and the latest technologies available to event managers and how they can be useful to the profession. The findings of the report are that event management professionals must indeed have a high level of critical awareness on future trends to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace. As we progress further into the 21st century, technological demands have quickly outstripped traditional factors such as catering or decor as the premier requirement that clients have, and event managers need to adapt to this need. Technology can also be used in new and innovative ways to find solutions to age-old problems such as ticketing and meeting budgets, and increasingly, it is the ability of event managers to apply such technologies to their business that sets them apart and gives them that competitive edge.
As we progress into the 21st century, event management professionals are finding that more and more they are having to rely on technology to successfully see their events through to completion. With the market attaining maturity and competition increasing, technology has the potential to act as a differentiator and set the best event management professionals apart from the rest. In this report, we will seek to identify and evaluate how critical an awareness of future trends and issues can be for an event management professional in today’s marketplace. In doing so, we will specifically look at the latest developments and advancements in technology and identify what effect these can have in the field of event management. The report will look at findings from research papers and articles on current and emerging trends, and based on these will critically analyse the impact of these trends on the profession of event management.
3.1 Academic Research on Vital Qualities in Event Management Staff
In 2001, Coulson and Coe conducted research for the Chartered Institute of Management where they identified the likely qualities that future event managers should posses. While this research is now 8 years old, the findings still stand relevant in today’s environment. Amongst others, one of the focus areas identified by the study was that such professionals should be flexible and adaptable to the business environment and be able to identify new opportunities and avenues as they become available.
According to Mullins (2004), effective events management professionals need to posses skills in the area of technical competence and conceptual ability that include application-specific knowledge and the ability to apply the technology to suit the event.
Bowdin et al (2006) set out a series of areas whose awareness that they considered essential in the training and development of an event-management professional. Some of these, without being exhaustive, were listed as:
- Trends in the evolution of events
- Roles of Technology and the environment in planning events
- Marketing across diverse media
The common thread we see amongst all these findings is the importance of an awareness of technological trends specific to event management. With critical consensus firmly in favour of this awareness, we can deduct that such awareness is vital for events management personnel (Tum et al, 2005).
3.2 Relevance of Technology to Events Management Professionals
According to Ash (2006), the days when decor and catering facilities were the most important factors when planning an event have long since gone. In the example given in her research paper, which is business conferences, executives are now seeking interactive experiences that take advantage of the latest advances in computer and audio-visual technology to display and manipulate data as and when required. Ash further goes on to quote Fox (2006) in saying that technological infrastructure is now the top demand made my clients in varied spheres of event management- whether it be highest quality sound and pyrotechnic equipment at a concert, or high speed wireless access and high-definition presentation systems for trade seminars. Therefore, any events professional needs to keep this trend in mind.
Siviero (2009), speaking in the context of the 2012 Olympic games in London, states that technology has a “huge impact. Planning a world class event needs technology to help one plan, organize and execute”. In event management for large-scale sports and cultural events of the calibre of the Olympics, the main role of technology is in maximising the ability to organize and instruct the event team. It also enables the manager to identify and resolve potential problems as soon as they crop up. In the last Pan-American games, it would have been impossible to coordinate systematic responses to security problems without the issue-tracking system integrated into the Main Operational Centre (Siviero, 2009).
3.3 How the Latest Advances in Technology can Help Events Managers
Ash (2006) states that event managers are using sophisticated technology to take make planning more distinct and attractive in the competitive marketplace. Flash-based tools can be used to allow attendees to exhibitions (for example) to custom design their itineraries, and also allows the event manager to add value by enabling them contact other exhibitors and sponsors via the website or mobile devices. The latest popular development is the advent of the digital conference program- this allows attendees to download layouts and schedules to their computers or mobile devices in advance of the actual live event, and plan out their attendance accordingly (Ash, 2006).
In fact, commentators like Siviero (2009) report that mobile devices are the next evolution in adding the “much needed” interactivity to events. For example, plans are being drawn up for m-ticketing at the 2012 Olympics and upcoming several music festivals , whereby the ticket is a barcode or a unique text code that is sent to event-goer’s handsets. Any changes to the event’s status can thus be sent to the devices and be automatically updated, as opposed to the customer having to look out for and physically change the tickets. In a similar vein, SMS messages can also be used to quickly and discreetly relay information to a large number of events staff.
Another trend seen recently is ‘Viral social marketing’- i.e. marketing events via social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Ford recently used this for word of mouth about the launch of the new Fiesta automobile. 100 people were selected to send out updates building up to the launch event for the launch of the new Fiesta. These were mostly minor celebrities or people with large social networks of thousands of people. This tool enabled Ford to build up publicity for the event at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing avenues- a very important fact for event management professionals to consider in the midst of the current economic crisis (Stadiatech.com, 2009, http://www.stadiatech.com/3158). An example of one of the user profiles set up for this exercise is given below.
Similarly, events professionals for Aviva stadium in Dublin have used Twitter to connect with the fans of Shamrock Rovers FC which is based on the promises, sending them updates on fixtures, special events, ticket prices and the like (Stadiatech.com, 2009, http://www.stadiatech.com/4355).
Fox (2006) believes that for most events professionals, event data management (EDM) is one of the most important technical aspects of managing an event. A wide variety of software packages is available for this process, which involves integrating data from sources like registration lists, survey feedback forms, etc into one centralised database. The information can then be used for proactively generating leads and managing expenses, enabling the manager to stay one step ahead of rivals.
According to Arcadia and Barker (2002), the 21st century has seen the proliferation of interactive multimedia experiences in events around the developed world. Whether it is video-conferencing at trade seminars or web-simulcasting for concerts, event managers can use technology to create richer experiences for a wider group of attendees.
Based on the findings detailed in the section above, the following recommendations have been made for events management professionals or any parties interested in knowing the qualities vital in a good events management professional:
1. Most academics have arrived at the consensus that events professionals should ideally be adaptable and flexible to meet the changing needs of the business environment. As such training courses should address these issues, and events staff should be on the lookout for strategies and techniques to adapt their business.
2. Technical competence itself is not enough but should be combined with the ability to perceive areas where the technology can be used to improve event management, and applied accordingly keeping business needs in mind.
3. Clients are increasingly demanding technological solutions and facilities as their primary requirement. As such, technologies should be identified which would help event managers to give the clients what they need.
4. Technological solutions can help with planning and for identifying marketing targets with more convenience and less cost, so full advantage should be taken of this.
5. Event managers need to be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to solve age-old events management problems such as mass ticketing and meeting budgets. Technology can always be manipulated to provide novel solutions such as m-tickets and viral marketing.
In conclusion, technology has truly changed the business environment of the event management business. For an event management professional to survive and be successful in this environment, they must embrace technological advances and have the ability to identify where to apply them to maximise the benefits to their business. Comments by industry spectators have made it clear that advanced technology is one of the main requirements and selling points demanded by clients in today’s world, and events managers that cannot claim to offer this will lose business fast. Trends identified by trade publications also indicate that the use of technology has allowed events managers to offer richer and more interactive experiences, and enabled them to find viable solutions to problems such as security and payment. We are left to draw the conclusion that an awareness of technological trends and advancements is indeed vital to the modern-day event management professional.