What makes an event special?

by Johnny Allen, former Director Australian Centre for Event Management

Special Events have increased rapidly in recent years as the corporate and public sectors have realised their power to build profile, promote messages and increase sales. Along with advertising and public relations, Special Events are now seen as part of the marketing mix used by most organisations to promote their goods and services.
Their increasing use has given rise to an industry of Special Event professionals and support services.

So what constitutes a Special Event?
From the point of view of a company or organisation, it is an event outside its normal programs or activities that is consciously planned and undertaken in order to achieve particular goals or objectives. These objectives might include: to launch new products or services, to promote sales, to develop client relationships, to reward staff or agents – the list is as long as the imagination.

To the Event Manager, the Special Event is a challenge to create the right mix of content, presentation, venue etc to achieve the goals of the client in the most cost effective and impactful manner. To do this effectively requires a range of skills and attributes – imagination, design, coordination, and the ability to lead a team and to keep track of detail.

In the past there has been relatively little training in the field, and most people have graduated from the ‘school of hard knocks’. Many Event Managers came from allied fields such as theatre and audio-visual production, and were drawn to events as they realised that they had a talent in this area. Most learnt their skills by trial and error, or by apprenticing themselves informally to others in the business. The early players had the challenge and satisfaction of being pathfinders, of helping to define and establish a new industry.

However, as events grew larger and the investment in them increased, clients started to raise their expectations and to expect dependable service and predictable outcomes. The need for professionalism, standards and training became increasingly apparent.

Executive certificate in Event Management Course at UTS

Recognising the growing need for professional training, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) launched an Executive Certificate in Event Management course in 1996, tailored largely to the needs of the public events industry. Students from both corporate and government organisations were attracted to the course, and a common methodology was identified that could be applied to a wide range of events.

UTS drew on its own resources of marketing and tourism staff, augmented by industry professionals who brought practical and current experience to the course. Case studies were included, given by industry leaders in both government and corporate fields. The course quickly expanded, and was delivered in intensive mode from 1998, which matched the needs of busy event practitioners. By the end of 1999, over 300 students had taken the course from a wide range of backgrounds and geographical locations. Some were event practitioners seeking a frame of reference for their knowledge and skills, as well as a formal qualification. Others used the course as an introduction to the event industry, or to aid their transition to events from allied areas such as public relations, banking and information technology.

The emphasis of the course shifted from public to corporate events, with the mix adapted to the nature of each course intake.

Australian Centre for Event Management
In 1999, UTS took the step of establishing the Australian Centre for Event Management to add value to the course, and to liaise with and support the event industry. The Centre runs a range of programs including short courses, seminars and conferences designed to support professionals working in the field, and to improve the knowledge and skills base of the industry.

A Research Program, allied with the teaching activities of the School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism at UTS, aims to support research and to publish event education resources.

ACEM Website