“EVENTS manager” — Now that’s a job title that didn’t exist 30 years ago. On one level its meaning is obvious but, at the same time, it possesses an ambiguous quality that arouses our curiosity.

I researched the Internet and was hit by an information overload. There were more than six million entries listed under “events management”. You can even take a degree in it. Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom is just one of the many institutions offering a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) programme for the aspiring events manager. Events may range from product launches, dinner dances, themed gala evenings, charity sports competitions to rock concerts.

What factors have nurtured the emergence of this new industry? The proliferation of special events came about as the corporate and public sectors realised the power of such events to build, promote messages and increase sales. Along with advertising and public relations, special events are now seen as an integral part of the marketing mix, namely, product, price, place and promotion. From the organisation’s perspective, if an event is outside its normal scope of activities, it will need to outsource it.

Events management debuted during the 1980s, a decade associated with opulence, showmanship and when everything was done on a colossal scale.

Initially, many events managers came from the theatre, performing arts and audio-visual industries. As events grew larger and investment increased, sponsorship was drawn in and clients started to raise their expectations. A new profession and industry was born.

Broadly speaking, events management is an umbrella term for a range of more specialised activities which are catered for by different types of organisations. As an industry, events management possesses the following characteristics:

* Uniqueness. Each event must be unique in its own right. Even if the preparation is standardised, no two events can be identical.

* Non-recyclable features. Many features that go into creating an event cannot be used again. A good example is the backdrop that is designed for a product launch.

* Intangibility. As with any service, the “added-value” factor relates to how the service is received and perceived at the time it is presented.

* Ambience. Participants must enjoy themselves.

* High levels of personal contact and interaction. Spectators at a sports events are not only watching the event, they are helping to create the atmosphere. To put it another way, you can stage two identical events and one can be a success and the other a failure simply on the basis of the quality of the personal interaction.

* Labour-intensiveness. Most events are very labour-intensive. Staffing levels also need to peak at specific times and require precise coordination.

* Precise coordination. Events companies frequently have to work with subcontractors and freelancers.

* Fixed time scale. Providers are bound by rigid time scales which cannot be extended.

* Memorable. Finally, the events organiser should strive to create a lasting impact, however humble or grandiose the occasion.

Precarious situations

Much can go wrong, of course. Events management is a precarious activity and a logistical nightmare. It requires ice-cool nerves, an ability to think on one’s feet and precision-guided coordination skills.

Even then the events planner has little control over worst-case scenarios. In 1991, Luciano Pavarotti’s concert in London’s Hyde Park was ruined as a result of torrential rain. Three years ago, the Rolling Stones’ Asia tour was called off prematurely as a result of the outbreak of Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

But here’s the good news for events organisers. The potential market is infinite. At a human level, events offer a break from routine, a distraction from the stresses and tribulations of everyday life.

Expectations too are increasing and so are the occasions deemed worthy of celebration — some people are even throwing divorce parties.

Terrorism has added a new dimension to events planning. High-profile events such as the Olympics are obvious targets for terrorists. While the police and security forces are legally responsible for security, increasingly they are relying more and more upon the services of private security firms.

Typically, these companies provide manpower to check passes, search bags and run scanners over the guests. They are also becoming an increasingly common feature of our daily lives. It is the sad reality of life in the 21st century that the demand for their services has created yet another high-growth sector within the events management industry.