The New Era of Event Professionals
Humans are social beings and best communicate when meeting face-to-face. Remember: kings and monarchs met face-to-face to better come to conclusions or compromises. Event planning is a profession with roots in ancient times. History is laced with events ranging from the meetings of monarchs and lords to lavish royal weddings that required extensive planning and communications or marketing. Large-scale, organized events have existed for thousands of years, originally based on religious holidays or politics. Since the event industry’s inception, it has seen many revolutions and advancements that have led to a brand new era for event professionals.
Bring it Back to the Beginning
You may not picture Cleopatra as the original event planner- but she might have been just that. Back around 41 B.C., Cleopatra planned several large, extravagant events in order to woo her potential suitors. Whether it be Julius Caesar or Mark Antony, she would coordinate her large gestures through the focus of a large event. Imagine a candlelit barge with perfumed sales rowed by oarsman in matching attire followed by drinks, food and live entertainment. Sounds like the grand gesture we commonly see in witty romantic comedies, eigh? The intention was to create a lasting impression, and she was largely successful in creating a memorable experience around these romantic advancements.
In 1520, there was a meeting, the Field of the Cloth of Gold, for King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. King Henry had a temporary castle (pop-up event, anyone?) built. It consisted of painted canvas walls and landscaping that made sure both parties were on equal, level ground. This is one of the first documented cases of a venue specifically built for a certain event.
Holidays, Politics and Festivals
Most events and meetings in history consist of royalty throwing parties or hosting weddings or religious feasts and festivals within the town. Everyone would gather and celebrate victories in war, harvest seasons, royal weddings, and religious ceremonies and holidays. Celebrations such as Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day, have their roots in Christianity and were often celebrated in large, city-wide events, much like they still are today.
However, even secular groups were involved with the event. These events included merchant groups, guilds, and entertainers. Events took many months and even years to coordinate and execute and required a large staff including politicians, businessmen or merchants. These events were not frequent enough to warrant a full-time profession until much later on but they got the ball rolling.
Time for a Revolution
When the Industrial Revolution began in the 1800’s, it shifted the way the economy functioned as a whole. Manufacturing plants could produce goods in mass quantities; towns became increasingly populated and the standard of living took an upward turn. Transportation became less of a burden and this influenced globalization and national pride; cities and nations wanted to showcase their advancements.
With a new economy structure forming, travel and manufacturing became vital to the economy. Trade shows and exhibitions began to form. For example, one of the earliest expositions ever held was the French Industrial Exposition of 1844. Events of this type continued to grow and Britain’s Great Exhibition of 1851 was attended by international attendees, a concept unheard of previously. This event laid a solid foundation for the value and presence of tradeshows and world fairs on an international level.
Events as a Profession
As cities and nations became ever-more connected, the importance of an event coordinator as a profession increased significantly. No longer were large and lavish events reserved for the elite or royalty. Through the increase of job opportunities and higher pay, events (whether business related or personal) became more accessible and desired by all.
The event professionals of today play a largely different role than those of years past. It’s so much more than picking out color schemes and decorations. Today’s event professionals must have an understanding of marketing and sales functions, customer service and relationship management, human resources, communications, contracts, and operations management (and that’s the short list).
In reality, very few other professions or occupations require such a broad set of disciplines and skills. In the past, event planners frequently wore all these hats on their own. But as events increase in size, frequency and value, today’s event professional typically directs entire teams to help in the success of an event.
The required skill sets of event planners have grown and evolved over the years in many ways. For instance, in the past planners were highly detail oriented and managed every detail. In today’s event industry, event professionals are managers of systems or programs for event details. While there is an increasing amount of details to maintain, event planners no longer have to handle so many details due to the fact that there are programs that automate the details of event management. This is all part of a digital transformation. More processes can be automated, so the value of face-to-face interactions becomes more valuable.
Relationships are vital to any event professionals’ success within the industry. In the past, business relationships were maintained through face-to-face meetings and personal connections. Many event planners in the past discussed the details and workflows of an event with their client in person. This all began to shift once social media and digital communications were available to nearly everyone.
Now, event planners manage hybrid relationships-relationships maintained via digital methods and face-to-face meetings. The most successful event planners of today master hybrid relationships with vendors, merchants, and clients with ease, making it a seamless move between digital and face-to-face communications.
Major Evolution: Events as a Key Marketing Strategy
Events are marketing platforms that can have a lasting impression for brands and organizations. However, they weren’t always seen this way. In the past events were often thought of as one-off experiences and that was simply it. In today’s industry, events are a key part of raising brand awareness, both effectively and efficiently. Marketing budgets are allocating more of their budgets to events as the ROI is made more tangible through the capture of data.
Caitlin Weiskopg, executive director of Harper’s BAZAAR once said “It’s not just one night like it was ten years ago. It is networking, content generation, social media; it’s a 360-degree platform. We’ll promote an event for a month with viral campaigns and guerilla tools. Now, we can expand the experience to a wider audience, which at the end of the day is what everybody wants. The live event is an anchor for a much bigger marketing program.”
Innovation within the Events Industry
As expected, an industry with such a high growth rate has an increasing range of technology and tools available. Event technology has exponentially expanded with a wealth of tools for event professionals to utilize ranging from simple, free tools online to event apps and tracking systems to fully integrated event management software. This allows the events and meeting industry to be the most intimate and effective way to connect with people and reach goals.
Through technology advances that stem from the needs of event professionals, innovation has brought about a new era for event professionals. Gone are the days of sticky notes, clipboards, and binders. The days of integrated event management or booking systems and digital tools are here, to stay and to grow. The innovation within the industry isn’t solely in technology either, but also in the organization and structure of the event itself. As the industry gains credibility through a proven ROI, we find ourselves at the edge of a digital transformation that will impact the entire industry.