As per the course requirement, we have undergone the process of planning an international music event. While the whole process was a simulation, we could still realize the challenges and excitements that an event manager faces in his/her career.
At the first phase of the project, groups were formed following Belbin’s Theory (West, 2004). Belbin proposed a model that specifies the aspects of an individual’s personality, i.e. strength and weakness that he/she shows in workplace. According to the model, there are nine roles an individual can play within a group. These roles are: Plant, Resource investigator, Coordinator, Shaper, Monitor evaluator, Team worker, Implementer, Completer finisher, and Specialist. I was chosen to play the role of Team worker within my group. My core responsibilities were to carry out the instructions given by the team leader and cooperate with others on every stage of the event simulation planning.
As we have experienced, the planning of an event, especially an international music gig is a complex process. There are a number of factors that need to be considered along the way and the event itself has multifaceted impact on the society, environment, and culture. However, this experience was immensely valuable considering my event management as my future career choice as it has given me a better understanding about the procedure and the real life drill of an event really helped me to realize how to work in a team and synergize all the tasks with others that are needed to execute a musical event successfully. However, as the course instructor promised us at the beginning of the course, I also came to realize that event management is pure fun.
Planning an international musical event involves different aspects of the even including the financial planning, rules and regulations, possible impact on the local community, staff management, branding of the performers, sponsorship and so on.
Different scholars attempted to define Event in different ways. Getz (1993) gave the minimalist definition of ‘themed public celebration’, which was further elaborated by Douglas et al. (2001) as events are ‘for people to come together to celebrate, to demonstrate, to worship, to honour, to remember, to socialise’. From this list of public purposes, events look like modern day rituals which were reflected by the definition given by McDonnell et al. (1999) where they argued that events are specific rituals or celebrations that are planned and created to mark any special occasion. Goldblatt (1997) gave a much simpler definition as he said that an event is a ‘unique moment in time celebrated with ceremony and ritual to satisfy specific needs’.
In my experience of working with this group, the first thing I realized about what an ‘event’ is that an event is not just an occasion where people come together, get entertained and go back to home. An event is much more than that. An international music festival has the power to change a small, relatively unknown town in the corner of the country into one of the most celebrated destination. If planned and executed properly, a big event has the capabilities to transform a place and the lives of the people in the community. It is, unfortunately, equally true that same applies on the negative side if an event is poorly managed and executed.
The planning and organization of an event requires the formation of a working team, as we were formed into teams. This team acted as a temporary organization where the role and responsibilities of each member were specified. According to Slack and Parent (2006), organizational framework or structure may have three dimensions:
_Formalisation:_ refers to the degree to which the rules and regulations, strategies, and individual and team roles guide the activities of the team.
_Complexity:_ the inner structure of the event management team with the hierarchy and authoritative system.
_Centralisation:_ the degree to which an individual exercises his/her role as the decision maker of the even management team.
Since our project was a drill, while the two aspects of an event management organization were noticeable (Formalisation and Centralisation), the third element, Complexity was not strongly present since the team was not very hierarchical. However, we followed the formal procedure and showed respect to the laws and regulations while we planned the event. In addition to that, we followed the policies mentioned during the course lectures to determine different aspects of the event such as financial planning, impact management, staff and volunteer management, environmental and political effect and so on.
Event planning and management always requires team effort, regardless of the size or range of the event. Hence, there has to be a member of the team who plays the role of facilitator to guide the knowledge and resource sharing process. The facilitator is not exactly the team leader. Bens (2000, p.7) asserted that facilitation is ‘a way of providing leadership without taking the reigns’. In our group, different members played the role of facilitator at different stages.
I observed the roles they played and learned how to disperse organizational knowledge for a better performing team. According to facilitation theory, learning within a team occurs with the help of the facilitator, not simply by someone who provides knowledge to the group (Lambert and Glacken, 2005). My personal experience confirmed this theory since I have experienced that personal knowledge can add little value to a group unless it is fairly disseminated and discussed by the other members within the group.
If I look back at my experience of the group work; this will be my primary takeaway that I have learned the importance of facilitating ideas and knowledge among the group members and in future I will be aware of applying this knowledge in my career as an Event manager. Even if I don’t end up to be an event manager, this learning will help me to become better as a social being and as an individual. As an event manager, I will focus on the decentralisation of power and letting other assume responsibility and take the lead when necessary. It is sometimes better to play the labour and sometimes play the leader.
Performance of a team is determined by the participation and effort given by each member. The team leader or the event manager plays the role of the ‘director of performance’ (Vidal, 2004). He synchronizes individual performances and creates synergy among the group members and specific functional departments while he enjoys working creatively and collectively with the aim of achieving certain objectives (Vidal, 2004, p. 394). Hence, I realized the nature of the work of an event manager and I am now more attracted to pursue a career in event management than before.
The event management industry is embodied with a number of challenges that every event management effort has to endure. The biggest challenge is to ensure financial viability. The economy is yet to recover from the recession completely and it is still very difficult to organize a profitable event. As Smith et al. (2010) addressed, allocating the limited resources of an event effectively has become more critical than ever. For our group as well, financial consideration posed tremendous challenges and I realized that the skills I have acquired regarding event budgeting will be particularly helpful in future.
Another area of difficulty was the impact analysis and contingency planning. Every event has several possible positive and negative impacts on the local society, environment, governance, and politics to some extent. Maximizing positive impact and reducing negative impact requires intelligent strategic decisions and planning. This was another learning outcome for me from the experience.
However, there were a few places where I identified shortcomings in terms of group performance or my individual performance. First of all, effective communication among the group members was an issue. Every individual is different and we were formed into a group with people with different personalities. Also, there was no elected leader or director of the group. Hence, in the beginning it was a bit difficult to ensure effective communication which led to some confusion and inefficiency. As Greenberg (2002, p.217) explained that communication is the process of sending and receiving information, it requires the meaningful coding and decoding from the both end.
Another shortcoming of the exercise was that we could not specifically measure the impact of the event on the community. Actually, unless the event takes place in real life, it is difficult to say whether it would be received well by host communities or not. Though I had the experience of planning an event with a team, without the experience of executing the plan, it is always incomplete.
However, this was a very enjoyable and valuable journey. The experience will add values to my character as an individual and will help me to become a better event manager in future, if I pursue this career for myself. However, even if I don’t end up to be an event manager, this experience will remind me about the values of working in synergy to produce positive results. For me, that was the significance of the whole experience.
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