The events industry is finally mainstream -- but at what cost?


In today’s not-breaking news, the events industry is mainstream.  Organizations are increasingly aware of the importance of live events.  Schools have comprehensive event planning curriculums.  There are more industry conferences than ever before, and there are more smart, creative, talented people attending them.  If you’re exceptionally lucky your grandparents might not even refer to you as a party planner.  The fact that the events industry is getting the recognition it deserves is a major point of pride for so many people, and understandably so.  Efforts and creative talent in our business went unnoticed and under-appreciated for far too long.  Where the events industry was once the kid in the cafeteria eating lunch by himself, times have changed.  Now we’re the popular one.  Which brings forward a question that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately: Have we reached a point where we’re now too mainstream? Has the events industry attracted so much attention that its popularity leads to inefficiencies, ineffectiveness and diminishing returns?

We produced a conference late last year that was, by all accounts, not complicated.  There were a fair number of VIP speakers who required extra attention, and the event had a few organizations involved from a strategic partnerships standpoint.  Otherwise though, it was a single-track, one-day event with a straightforward program and modest technical needs.  Imagine my surprise then, when I showed up the day before and saw our production manager leading a stage walk through for 14 representatives from the aforementioned organizations.  The attention wasn’t only on-site either.  It was the three months leading up to the event — morning, noon and night.  People weighed in on the big picture.  People weighed in on the details.  People weighed in on the people weighing in on the big picture and the details.  Suffice to say that if the collective hours spent on this project could have been repurposed, world peace may no longer be a global issue.  The event concluded and everyone agreed it was a great success, but then again for the amount of time and brainpower put forth it better have been.  Could it have been just as successful with a fraction of the time spent, a fraction of the people, or both? (Hint: don't make me answer that.) This doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident either. An increasing number of events have larger teams devoted to them, which translates to more ideas and opinions.  To a certain point that’s for the betterment of an event, and after that point it’s not.

The opposing view to all of this is simple.  If the events industry wasn’t mainstream, there may not have been a conference in the first place.  That’s a legitimate point, and tough to argue.  However I have to imagine that for our industry to continue to thrive we need to find a comfortable middle ground.  We need the people and ideas to make events better, but optimization is key.  We don’t need to be the kid who eats lunch in the cafeteria by himself, but running in the popular crowd isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.  Getting a little anonymity back into our lives (and our events) might make the industry even more powerful than it is today.