In August 2018, 21 live events industry delegates from around the world met in Denver for the International Live Events Association (ILEA) 2018 Global Event Forum. A similar group had gathered once before in Scotland, where they engaged in thoughtful conversation about various industry topics. In Denver, however, the group concentrated its efforts on one pressing issue in particular: the commoditization of the live events industry.
For a full day and a half, the delegates broke down the topic, first by defining it, then deciphering what it means for the industry and, finally, how to properly manage it. After the forum, ILEA presented a report “Unifying the Live Events Industry” that recorded the findings and proposed next steps.
The concerns that the commoditization of the industry engenders—how to communicate the value of live events professionals, how to establish the industry as a profession, what it means to sell creativity and how to differentiate live events—led to the group’s ultimate conclusion that unity is the cure for an industry seeking respect.
But what do we mean by unity? Sure, it sounds like a nice idea in a kumbaya sort of way, but unpacking what unity looks like in practice is essential to advancing our industry and achieving greater success in our businesses.
Live events professionals are experts. We know how to work with big and small budgets, we work efficiently and effectively with others in our network of other experts, and we create meaningful experiences for our clients by harnessing the power of face-to-face interactions. Not just anyone with access to Pinterest can do that.
As an industry, we have an opportunity— and, I’d argue, the responsibility—to come together and change the perception of our profession. A good first step in combatting the misperception of industry value is being able to effectively communicate that value. Ideally, we’d have a common language to do so. We grapple with the casual terms thrown around to describe our work, such as “party planner.” If live events professionals want to be seen as such, we need a unified glossary of terms we can agree on. In other words, we need to define creativity in terms that make sense to those not in the industry.
Another reason the industry hasn’t received the respect it deserves is that, especially in the United States, there aren’t direct endorsements from authority. In Melbourne, Australia, for example, the government invests in the live events industry, thus providing credibility to the profession. If the industry were more united, it could collaborate to educate governments and create consistent education across the board. It could construct regulations and penalties to prevent infringement from nonprofessionals. This is no easy feat, of course, but is imperative if the industry wants to move into the respected ranks like that of lawyers and accountants.
Live events industry professionals must stand together to build legitimacy and demand respect.
One of the best ways to affect change and be connected to the industry and its goals is being involved in an ILEA chapter. Participating in the ILEA Denver Chapter has offered me the opportunity to discuss both local topics, such as how marijuana is changing events, and big-picture ones like those I’ve outlined above.
It’s an ambitious goal to unify a disparate, global industry, and it will take all of us who value our profession to make change. But if any group can figure it out, it’s the collection of creative, hardworking people who make up the live events industry. The 2019 ILEA Global Event Forum is scheduled for Aug. 6-7 followed by ILEA Live Aug. 8-10, both in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Ingrid Nagy, CSEP, and her husband, Cade, own and operate Denver-based by Design Collective, a full-service catering and event decor company. Ingrid is the immediate past president of ILEA.