I have been reading a new book by Donald Getz entitled Event Studies: Theory, research and policy for planned events (see Getz, 2007). It is a timely look at how event studies is a field whose time has really come. More than event management, it proposes the establishment of an all-encompassing field that researches planned events of all types, not just special events. Near the beginning, Getz points out the gap that exists between event practitioners (e.g. event managers, producers, planners, etc) and researchers/theorists (academics). Interestingly, I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of practitioners do not even know that a "parallel universe" of researchers and academics exists in the field of event management and that a great deal of useful information can be obtained from these researchers for the design of better and more effective events (i.e. read better designed for ROI). As Getz notes, "it is probable that closing this gap will require direct intervention by professional associations in seeking research and training partnerships with academic institutions that specialize in event management and Event Studies."
As one who has a foot in both camps (I began as an event producer for 19 years and am now a writer with two recent books on the subject of event production), I do, though, have a bit of a bone to pick with the researchers, and I am by no means singling out Getz in this case, just the whole academic side of event research. I have noticed that most research is concerned almost exclusively with the impact of events on tourism. My problem with this is that the impetus for research should be driven by practitioners and not by academics. I am not convinced that this is now the case. The reason I state this is that having been on the practical side, I know that the entire industry is driven by practitioners and has been ever since its approximate birth some 25-odd years ago. The fact of life in the world of practitioners is that most of them work on corporate events and private events, not the high impact public hallmark and mega events that Getz and the academics would have us believe if we read their research. In fact, according to the 2006 Event Solutions magazine industry survey results, of the types of events respondents were involved in, 78% were corporate, 57% were social, and 45% were non-profit. These were the top three, and only 23% were involved in fairs and festivals. That means that practitioners need information about these as much or more than large tourist-oriented events.
Furthermore, all these practitioners generally look on themselves as SPECIAL event persons, not just event persons. Herein is some confusion in terminology. The academics tend to separate out special events as just another label and also tend to treat any special event as important only as long as it contributes to tourism, whereas those of us in the industry see it as the ONLY label, whether the event contributes to tourism or not. I believe, as I have stated before, that special events CAN be defined and can be divided up based on types and based on a list of defining characteristics of "specialness." All that I ask of Getz and the academics is that they take into consideration the importance of being industry-focused in their research.
Having gotten that off my chest, I do commend Getz on his thoughts about this new field. I particularly like his emphasis on and explanation of "foundation disciplines" such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, religious studies, performance studies, history, and such. These are essential background disciplines, at least a smattering of whose knowledge would greatly enhance the education of future practitioners. As he points out, there are almost limitless research possibilities from these disciplines in terms of their effects on and relationship to events - rather SPECIAL events. As practitioners, we would do well to open up the lines of communication with the academic side as soon as possible.
Getz, Donald. (2007) Event Studies: Theory, research and policy for planned events. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd.