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Attention Hospitality Students and Graduates : A Career for You in Events Management?

publication date: Nov 21, 2011
 | 
author/source: Sonja Holverson
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Attention Hospitality Students and Graduates

THROWING A PARTY FOR A LIVING:  

A Career for You in Events Management?

The full column is available in word below
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By Sonja Holverson

Our students at L’ECOLE HOTELIERE DE LAUSANNE  are well aware that Events Management involves much more than “throwing a party” although that in itself at EHL, is an enormous endeavour in which our students have usually been very successful: on and off campus. However, some of you looking for internships or jobs as you approach graduation or those of you who have already graduated and who are considering going into Events Management may have not quite considered exactly what could be involved in this career choice.


What is Events Management?

It is the application of project management involving creative, strategic and logistical methods of planning, designing, producing, and marketing in which there is a lot of outsourcing to materialize noteworthy events. Popular event domains include social, commercial, athletic, cultural, religious, musical, theatrical, political, scientific, athletic, artistic and many other types of occasions. Today the expectations are high and gone are the days of party throwing when you just called a caterer and a few suppliers and did-it-yourself. In addition to being highly professional events are, of course, punctual, which necessitates absolute perfection in organization and implementation. In other words, no mistakes and no second chances.

Is this a new field?

We all agree that events have been around since the beginning of human life. Nomadic pagans during the Palaeolithic Age in Europe were organizing festivals 12’000 years ago, some of which still being organized today. The 500 years of Roman rule had some memorable events. The most famous of all events are the Olympic Games which began in Olympia, Greece in 776 BD and lasted 12 centuries before dying out and then being revived again in 1896. Other major historical events include the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris never dismantled Gustave Eiffel’s temporary tower.

One type of event that has been universally popular throughout history is the music festival, especially in the 1960’s with the (in)famous Woodstock which was the beginning of the age of the modern music festival. It was during this era that the Montreux Jazz Festival was founded.

Not all events are as elaborate or as complex as the world’s major events, however the nature of the profession is similar regardless of size and even a small event can be overwhelming to the inexperienced.

What kind of qualifications do I have to have?

According to the late Leonard H. Hoyle, Jr., specialist in Events Management, “Commitment to your goal is essential to full achievement.  It generates excitement, creativity, and infectious enthusiasm. […] As an Event Manager and Marketer, it must start with you”. (1) Another qualification that I would add is the ability to handle surprises because it is guaranteed that there will be at least one.

 

What are some of the activities that I would be handling?

Leonard H. Hoyle, Jr. provides a partial list of areas requiring knowledge (2):

  1. ·         Group dynamics,
  2. ·         Marketing, promotion, publicity
  3. ·         Financial management and accounting
  4. ·         Politics and leadership management
  5. ·         Food and beverage management
  6. ·         Law and liabilities
  7. ·         Site inspection and selection
  8. ·         Transportation
  9. ·         Facilities management
  10. ·         Housing and reservations
  11. ·         Registration procedures
  12. ·         Contracts and insurance
  13. ·         Liaison with program participants
  14. ·         Logistics, function rooms, meeting spaces (VIPs)
  15. ·         Shipping and transporting goods
  16. ·         Audiovisual, IT, other technologies
  17. ·         “Show flow” and scheduling
  18. ·         Master accounts and gratuities
  19. ·         Staging and decoration
  20. ·         Exhibit management and marketing
  21. ·         Program planning
  22. ·         Evaluation and analysis techniques

I will add Risk Assessment since as we all know, festivals are neither weather-proof nor volcanic ash proof, etc. and entertainers and keynote speakers as well as suppliers, just like all of us, are people who can have problems on that particular day or days.

 

Are there growing opportunities in this field?

Despite what we’ve seen in the last couple years with cancelled events, slashed corporate and affinity events budgets as well as lower attendance, the Events Management Industry is about a 500 billion dollar industry worldwide. (3) For the tourism sector, events are a becoming a critical component for destination promotion, especially due to increasing competition between destinations. What is referred to by some scholars as “Event Tourism” has seen “subsequent growth” in this sector and “can only be described as spectacular.” (4) Some destinations are reviving or reworking traditional festivals and events along with adding new events which are all part of a worldwide momentum of event development in recent years. (5)

Research has shown that there is usually a favourable result due to the event which will not only contribute to the economic welfare of the community but also develop community solidarity, local quality of life, as well as improve the image of the destination and put in on the tourism map. (6) This does not exclude possible negative impacts depending on the nature of the event such as environmental damage, increasing traffic congestion, social discontent and an increase in security costs. However, these are manageable problems that events professionals have been working on to be sustainable such as engaging local suppliers in event-related contracts and minimizing ecological impacts.

Music festivals, in particular are a favoured choice of festivals for tourist destinations. In the UK festivals are big business and with the radical change in the music industry worldwide, there is a greater number of available musicians because live concerts are now the way they make their money. Just last year alone, there were 700 music festivals in the UK of various sizes and in different destinations. For the festival-goers, it’s still a very good value compared to buying tickets to sports matches and individual concerts. Furthermore, according to one UK organiser, “the live music experience isn’t something that can be recreated digitally” and there are never two festivals that are the same. (6) They are each very unique experiences for all involved; spectators, suppliers and organisers and you have to be there to understand.


Switzerland is legendary for its love of festivals and probably has more festivals per capita than anywhere in the world.  Music festival promoter, Stefan Matthey of Free & Virgin says that “the strange thing is that there are more and more every year but none of them are disappearing.” (7) Although there has been a fractional decrease in festival-goers, revenues last year increased 5.5%for Swiss music festivals. (8)

Could I have some examples of people’s personal experiences working in Event Management?

The Zermatt Unplugged Music Festival was an idea conceived in 2007 by Zurich businessman, Thomas Sterchi, who is working in films, music and hospitality (owns a restaurant in Zermatt) along with composer friend Chris von Rohr who suggested the dimension “Unplugged”. This is referring to acoustic only music; something rare in the world music festival circuits. When the festival materialized in 2008 the world was experiencing an economic credit crunch and we saw the beginnings of a financial crisis that continues today in many countries. Despite all of this, Zermatt Unplugged Music Festival is in its 4th year and is now one of the most important acoustic music festivals in Europe with about 15’000 serious music lovers attending.

Unlike all other music festivals, Zermatt Unplugged has for its “stage” the ancient alpine wooden chalet-covered, traffic-free village centre as well as the ski slopes of Zermatt  nestled at the foot of the iconic Matterhorn (14,692 feet) and the Monte Rosa (15,203 feet), the highest peak in Switzerland. some of the world’s best known singers, songwriters and bands as well as some brilliant ‘new talent’ who are invited to play with the masters in a laid-back authentic musical ambience.

Meet Sebastian Metry, graduate of L’Ecole Hoteliére de Lausanne in 2009 who began as Event Manager for Zermatt Unplugged music festival in charge of Marketing and Hospitality in December of 2010 in preparation for the festival held 12-16 April 2011. Now plans are under way for the 5th edition 17-21 April 2012 (http://www.zermatt-unplugged.ch).

How does Zermatt Unplugged music festival differentiate from the other music festivals in Europe?

In addition to the fact that it is an acoustic music festival of which there are not many, our unique selling proposition is the intimate, authentic, uncomplicated and friendly atmosphere that makes everyone feel like they belong. People come who really love music and everyone is touched by it. There is a compatible mingling of famous musicians with young talented unknowns which creates an ambience found nowhere else.

Were their specific classes at EHL that you now find particularly useful for this position as Event Manager at the Zermatt Unplugged music festival?

Yes, Marketing, a little bit from Strategy, F&B Costing, Rooms Division, Accounting, Excel…and believe it not, Interpersonal Communication!

Had it occurred to you in advance that you would like to do this type of work?

No, not really…After my graduation I was planning to work in different hotels in order to get experience and take over our family hotel’s business, The Schoenegg in Zermatt one day. That’s why I went to the States and worked there as a trainee in F&B management for a hotel in Washington D.C.

Were you specifically interested in Events Management before you took this position?

All in all, I felt that I was not advancing in my learning process while working in the U.S.  I always liked to organize little events. During my time at EHL I organized 2 big excursions to Zermatt. We were about 60 people and spent memorable weekends in Zermatt together. I was also on the committee for the Fête Finale Autumn 2008 as well as on the Student Social Space committee and ran the D-bar for a semester.

What are some of the different Marketing and communication activities that you do for the festival?

I am not working alone as we are working with a Marketing company based in Zurich and cooperate on these activities:

Within Switzerland:

  • ·         Press
  • ·         TV
  • ·         Cinema
  • ·         Poster and screen advertising in the largest train stations
  • ·         Advertising in all cinemas
  • ·         Radio broadcasting with our partner DRS 3
  • ·         Collaboration with our media partner (SonntagsZeitung)
  • ·         Cross communication through our partners (especially Raiffeisen and Parmigiani)
  • ·         Online Marketing on event sites and related web pages

Within Zermatt

  • ·         3 branded taxis with the festival logo and the programme which drive around during the winter season
  • ·         6 branded gondolas and a lot of visibility in the ski region
  • ·         Billboards on the way to Zermatt
  • ·         Branded Give-Aways given out on the weekends before the event started
  • ·         30 hotels, 10 restaurants and 5 bars communicated the event to their guests and put out our logo flags just prior to the event that could be seen by anyone coming to Zermatt

What different type of organizations and agencies do you deal with in your job?

 ·         A marketing partner and a PR partner, both based in Zurich

·         A booking agency based in Lausanne

·         An event agency based in Zurich which is mainly supporting us during the festival itself

 

For the rest of the Marketing and Hospitality organization we are basically 2 people working more or less all year round for the festival. For the preparation time (From December to the event in April), there are 3 people that assist us.

I don’t have a lot to compare with since I’ve only worked there for one year, but in the matter of sponsoring I confronted a lot of difficulties that were apparently easier in the past. Nowadays, since every single small event contacts every brand for a sponsoring fee, it is very difficult to reach sponsors. Furthermore, the global financial crisis created a big change in sponsoring behaviour. Years ago sponsoring investments were looked at like marketing costs. Now all sponsors say no at the first request because they have so many events asking them for money. This year our main sponsors were Raiffeisen andParmigiani. Zermatt Tourism is supporting us financially as well. SonntagsZeltung is our media partner.

What do you believe to be the best qualities to look for in a candidate for your type of position as the Marketing and Hospitality Manager of these types of events?

You have to be detail-oriented and to be able to determine all the things one has to do and when; to order, and to organize. In addition it is very important to be team player. Since our organization committee is very small, each person has to collaborate with the others and help everywhere if help is needed. For example, at the 2008 festival it started to snow and the whole team had to clear the snow off the marquee tent. Therefore, I would add you have to be physically and mentally strong as it is a tough period and everybody gets close to their limits. I think also, that it is very important to have knowledge about Zermatt and to know the people in the village.

Having worked both in hotels and now in Events Management, which would you consider the most stressful for which to work?

In events, it is punctual. There is no soft opening. Hotels have time to do trial runs before the grand opening. For Events, there is no second chance to get it right.

With no room for error in the organization of the festival, were there any close calls or incidents that happened that increased your levels of adrenaline?

Yes, I had ordered 2 large refrigerated trucks in which we fill our beverages which arrived Friday before the festival which began on Tuesday. The same Friday we received our order for all of the beverages. While filling the drinks in one of the trucks we realised that the refrigeration was not working and we had to order a new truck which wouldn’t arrive until the first day of the festival and which was going to have difficulty manoeuvring within the traffic-free village. When it did arrive we had to move all the drinks from one truck to other, no small task during the opening of the festival. Another close call was when we invited one of the musicians to take a helicopter up the slopes to go skiing and he injured himself. After a bit of worry, fortunately it was minor and all ended well.

What do you like most about your job?

The flexibility. Each time of the year I have a different field that I’m working on. During the summer period I have to find sponsors. From Autumn onwards I’m working very close with our Marketing company in order to coordinate the Marketing in Zermatt with all the other Marketing actions for Switzerland. Starting in Winter my assistant and I take care of the organization of the hospitality. We have to ensure over 800 bookings in Zermatt for guests, artists, volunteers, VIPs, the press and other people. In addition I have to take care of the entire F&B offer. The main F&B location is the tent where everybody can come in for free. In addition, there are 6 food stands and 3 bars. I have to negotiate agreements with the stands and arrange for the beverage offer for the entire festival in accordance with our beverage partner.

What surprised you most about your job?

Not everything is as easy as it sounded to me at the beginning…

What are the less enjoyable aspects of your job?

The bills and the clearance after the event. I’m normally very tired and then I have to do the unloved work by myself…similar to cleaning up after the Fête Finale!

What could you tell hospitality students about your work that might be helpful if they are interested in this type of job?

It is really exciting work, but it is not always easy because you have to work a lot!! No overtime or related activities are counted. Sometimes it is hard to organise the entire event in advance, the whole year round and then, when the actual event starts, you are too busy and stressed to enjoy it. But there were some great moments when I could take some pleasure after hours in the venues when big name entertainers would get together spontaneously and jam. It was during those times, I could feel the authentic ambience of what our festival-goers were experiencing and that made it very worthwhile.

Thank you Sebastian.

 

“Event Tourism” is being used more and more to promote competitive destinations and to contribute to the local economy which can create positive community spirit in the long term. Zermatt Tourism works very closely with Zermatt Unplugged Music Festival and has a long term strategic view of the famous destination and the impact of “Event Tourism.”

Meet Marc Scheurer, Marketing Director for Zermatt Tourism who will give us some insight into the other major partners’ involvement in an event.

How many events does Zermatt organize each year? What are your most attended events?

We have around 20 events every year. The most attended are:

·         Horu Trophy (Curling)

·         Zermatt Unplugged (Music)

  • Zermatt Marathon

  • Matterhorn Eagle Cup (Golf)

  •  International Matterhorn Run

  • Folklore Festival, Zermatt Festival (classical Music)

 

How do you measure the impact of the events on tourism in Zermatt?

We measure the impact with the metrics of hotel overnights generated by the event, the amount of people attended, the number of package deals sold, etc. Every year the events’ organiser can ask for a sponsorship from Zermatt Tourism. Then, they have to give us some facts and figures about the event that help us evaluate the importance and impact of it on our destination.

What percentage of your marketing budget do you allocate for events?

It's about 18% of our budget out of CHF 2'800'000.-

Do you think that events are playing larger roles in marketing tourism than in the past?

It helps with the communication about a destination. It also shows the dynamism of a destination. But first of all the quality of the event must be delivered and the product/offer of a destination is still more important. An event has to be fully integrated into a destination’s strategy and follow their positioning.  Since Switzerland offers such a large number of events, it's more and more difficult to build up new events.

Zermatt Unplugged is a relatively new event. Could you tell us how this event has evolved vis-à-vis the community and how it has or has not helped with Zermatt tourism in the long term?

It always takes time for a population to accept changes or new offers. In Switzerland people are mostly very critical about it. But Zermatt Unplugged proved that it was not only able to bring a high quality animation to Zermatt, but also to attract new interesting guests to the destination. Today, and this already after only the 4th edition, the Zermatt Unplugged is part of the long term strategy of the destination and is widely supported by the locals. Zermatt Tourism focuses almost all of its Winter communication on this event which helps enable us to extend our season toward the end of April when no other ski destination can offer such good snow conditions at that time. 

Are there socio-economic impacts on the village of Zermatt and its residents due to events? Do receive any complaints from the residents? Compliments?

There are always some issues with the residents. Some want to keep their quiet life and others want to animate the resort. Of course, sometimes it causes some friction. But Zermatt is clearly a holiday destination and most residents are aware that we have to keep on being innovative for our guests. Compliments are rare in our job, but critical comments are taken as a chance to improve our service or as a communication platform with our residents and guests.

Does Zermatt Tourism hire staff that is experienced in working events? You mentioned that you had 3 in-house event coordinators.

Destination Tourism is a good platform to start a career. The job is extremely interesting and brings you in contact with a lot of variety in all fields. Of course if someone has already some working experience (trainee in event management or some years of working experience), it definitely helps. To join the management team, you definitely have to bring a solid background with you.

Do you have any advice to give our students or alumni who may be considering working at a tourist destination in Events Management?

Besides the school (theoretical part), use all opportunities to gain some working experience in this field. The school also always offers platforms, such as fairs, exhibitions or activities abroad. By using them, you gain working experience and it gives you some advantage over other applicants.

Thank you, Marc.

 

 

What can we conclude about Events Management?

Events are highly valued for tourism destinations to attract both business and leisure categories. Destination Management Organisations have high stakes in the success of the event and work closely with the Event Management organizations. However, in general, although closely collaborating, the Destination Management Organisations leave the biggest part of the event organization to the experts; those persons who really know how to throw a party.

 

ZERMATT UNPLUGGED MUSIC FESTIVAL PHOTO CREDITS: Dominique Schreckling (http://www.pbase.com/tcom/zermattunplugged2011 )

NOTES

1.    Hoyle, L.H. (2002). Event marketing: How to Successfully Promote Events, Festivals, Conventions, and Expositions. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Preface xii.

2.    Op. cit. Preface xvi

3.    Gordon, A. (2008, April 14). Understanding Business Development Ideas for Event Management Industry. Events Secrets. Retrieved May 19, 2011 from http://eventsecrets.com/articles/business-resources/understanding-business-development-ideas-for-event-management-industry/

4.    Getz, D. (2008, June). Event tourism: definition, evolution, and research. Tourism Management. (29)3. 403-428.

5.    Felsenstein, D. and Fleischer, A. (2003, May). Local Festivals and Tourism Promotion: The Role of Public Assistance and Visitor Expenditure. Journal of Travel Research, (41) 385-392.

6.    Ibid.

7.    Woods, A. (2011, May). Switzerland: Leading the fields. IQ Magazine. p. 61.

8.    Ibid.

 

 



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