Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why is the events industry so segmented?

The Colorado Festivals and Events Association just wrapped up their annual conference. From what I can tell (as a speaker and attendee) it was a success! I was lucky enough to have several conversations with the chapter president, Andrea Furness, about their organization and the industry that we share.

While chatting about my current writing project for the Convention Industry Council (of which the International Festivals and Events Association is not a member), Andrea and I had a great discussion about why festival planners feel that the education they need is so different from the education they might receive at another organization that has mostly conference planners. It is funny that the "special events" folks seem to be the only connection we have to each other. We refer to the conference side of the industry as the Meetings and Events industry and it appears that these folks like Festivals and Events industry. Maybe someone out there has an idea of how those planners who have successfully crossed that divide can help bring these two sides of the industry together.

In a lot of ways, this event was a breath of fresh air. Literally, since it took place in the Rocky Mountains, but also because it was different from many of the events I attend in other locations. It felt to me like the vendors were much more willing to be involved and be generous with their time and money because they know that positive contributions to their industry association will help them financially in the future. One of their sponsors even hosted a hospitality evening that was open to all attendees! Some you reading this will understand why that is so impressive. There were many similarities in the types of sessions offered and I noticed a lot of good topics that would be great additions to the other industry association events I attend.

Maybe our differences are largely to do with the fact that we have different types of vendors and they seem to be the ones calling the shots in our industry associations. For example, the corporate and association side of the industry are large purchasers of hotel room nights, therefore hotels are heavily vested in certain industry associations. Whereas, festival planners are more focused on elements like production and therefore, those suppliers are more important to them and more likely to be involved in their associations.

Why does it matter? We are all trying to prove the value of events and the more segmented our industry is, the harder it is to show the impact that we create together. The reason I made this connection was because of a session entitled: "Festivals' and Events' Role in Community Development" by Brittney Hoszkiw. Her session was a nuts and bolts, how-to prove the value of the events you are planning that was specifically geared towards professionals in a community development organization, however it was the same information that corporate and association planners need.

What do you think? Are there good reasons to have so many associations in our industry? Or would we be better off if there were fewer choices? Does the education need to be different for different types of events or should we do a better job of educating ourselves on all aspects of events?