Plan a successful career in the global events industry

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
August, 2015

The spectacle of London 2012 helped to bring worldwide attention to the key role that events management professionals play in ensuring any type of occasion is a success

'Following the success of London 2012, the management of events is now more visible than ever, and people see that there is a need for professional event design and planning,' says Dr Graham Berridge, director of teaching and learning for the School of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of Surrey.

Students need to understand the cultural importance of events to our society

An international outlook

The prospect of putting on such an acclaimed event anywhere in the world, bringing in overseas visitors, is an enticing one. Dr Berridge describes how international events form a part of nearly every major city's strategic planning for destination and tourism development.

After watching the city of London putting on such a great performance as host of the Olympics, it is no wonder that many foreign students are choosing to kick-start their events management careers by gaining a further qualification on these shores. The UK's excellent record for education is a huge draw.

Surrey, which was ranked first in the UK for its programmes in hospitality, events, tourism and transport by the Guardian University Guide 2016, receives postgraduate applications for its MSc International Events Management from as far as the USA, China, India, Singapore and Thailand.

Dr Miguel Moital, pathway leader for MSc Events Management at Bournemouth University, another leading UK institution featuring in the guide's top 10, has revealed a similar trend, with events management courses at Bournemouth proving particularly attractive to international students looking to gain a UK qualification.

The multinational blend of students allows for a range of different perspectives and opinions to be heard, which is vital in such a mixed-nationality workforce.

What skills do I need?

Although applicants may come from many different nations and educational backgrounds - including management, marketing, tourism, hospitality, the arts, and even engineering - Dr Moital has found that they all usually have the same thing in common.

He explains, 'These individuals are self-motivated, very energetic and have good interpersonal skills because without them it is difficult to survive in this fast-paced, networked industry.'

In terms of gender, women students outnumber their male counterparts at Surrey, with an approximate ratio of 8:1. Dr Berridge points out that personality-wise there are typically two types of student: those wanting to run their own company; and those who want to work for organisations running events.

'There is a mixture of those who see themselves as leaders and organisers - efficient in getting a job done - as well as those who are creative and inspirational and able to generate new experiences,' says Dr Berridge.

Cultural importance

Reaction to the opening ceremony of London 2012, witnessed by a global television audience of 900 million, was overwhelmingly positive with organisers widely praised for their risk-taking and creative freedom.

The potential to use such creative and entrepreneurial skills to develop events with global audiences is a stand-out feature of the vocation for many postgraduates, according to Dr Berridge. Yet, having the skills and tools to deliver an event is not enough in itself. 'Students need to understand the cultural importance of events to our society.'

In addition, Dr Moital feels that the student experience gained through the Masters provides an opportunity to develop cross-cultural management skills essential to the industry.

Run your own event

The major appeal of a postgraduate qualification from an Events Management Education (AEME) member institution is the opportunity to combine theory with practice, with students involved with the planning and staging of a real-life event.

By working on high-profile events such as London Fashion Weekend, the London Marathon or Glastonbury Festival, students can hone their strategic and operational skills, putting their knowledge into practice.

Whether the role entails full event co-ordination, specialises in marketing or promotion, or involves dealing with contractors and delegates, this work experience is invaluable in introducing students to this high pressure and extremely demanding environment.

What do graduates do?

As the market for events management graduates is vast, skills are not just sought by organisations operating directly within the industry, explains Dr Moital. 'There are many employment opportunities with organisations deploying events as a marketing tool, for example, PR events, product launches and sponsorships.'

This recognition of a need to provide students with a rounded skill-set led to Bournemouth starting a Masters in events marketing in 2013 - a world first. Given the current trends around experiential marketing, it is expected that non-events businesses will continue to be a major employer of events management graduates.

At Surrey, they found that corporate entertainment events, such as awards and galas, were a big attraction, but there is also a huge interest in PR events. Graduates go on to work in many different areas of society where events are a feature, including sport, charities, education, the government and corporate organisations.