Event management is a stressful yet enjoyable field for those who are energetic, creative and organised, reports Y.S. LIM.
DO you have a knack for event management? Well, more is required in the real world compared to organising a class party or scout camp in school. For starters, you would have to think about logistics, manpower, publicity and administrative work on a much larger scale and this means equipping yourself with multiple skills.
A diploma or degree in Mass Communication would put you on the right track as you will learn vital skills such as how to write a press release, handle a camera and sound system and maintain good public relations.
Event management will appeal to those who have loads of energy, creativity and good organisational skills.
Although it can be studied as a course, it is ultimately hands-on experience that counts. Before deciding on a course and institution, talk to former students and find out if they liked the programme. Make sure the facilities and lecturers at the institution are good before settling on one.
Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Mara are the public universities which offer Mass Communication programmes as do private colleges Taylor's College, KDU College, TAR College, Malaysia Institute of Integrative Media, Han Chiang College, Inti College, SEGi, Sunway and Limkokwing University College of Creative Technology.
A Jack of all trades
One person who has made it in this challenging field is Penangite Chris Gan whose familiar face is seen at almost every major event in the state including the Penang Food & Fruits Fiesta, Mega Sale Carnival, Penang Culinary Expo and the Malaysia International Dance Sport Championship.
Gan is as versatile as it gets: he could be up on stage as the MC for the evening but would also have handled the behind-the-scenes action as well.
Beauty pageants, product launches and entertainment shows, Gan has done them all and is already a consultant at just 31 years of age.
Gan's interest in PR and event management began in Sixth Form in Penang Free School when he was elected Interact Club president, a post which required him to do public speaking, emceeing, organising events and doing public service.
“Pursuing Mass Communication in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) was a natural progression as the course suited my personality,” he says, adding that his major was in Film and Television.
His career got a kick-start when he was spotted by then PDC (Penang Development Corporation) tourism division manager Ong Ban Seang.
“I was working on my second year film assignment which was a comedy feature. Location shooting at a beach resort led to a feature in The Star which was spotted by Ong. He asked me and my crew to do video and photography of tourism events in Penang.”
“This link with Ong who is now Penevents Sdn Bhd CEO has allowed me to be continuously involved in Penang's tourism and hospitality industry,” Gan recalls.
After graduating in 1995, Gan started out as PR Manager of Sunway Hotel Georgetown, where he picked up important skills such as preparing press kits, creating news events, maintaining press relations and carrying out promotions. “If USM gave me the theory, Sunway Hotel gave me the practical,” he quips.
In 1996, Gan worked in an advertising agency to learn more about advertising, PR, production, printing, design, copywriting and events.
“It was there that I first dabbled in organising a major exhibition, which was to introduce the Internet to the masses in Penang,” he says, adding that he also had a stint as a stringer with The Star .
Using his skills and contacts, Gan then set up his own PR consultancy specialising in entertainment services and events.
Today he not only provides PR and event management services to top hotels in Penang he also handles large events for Penevents which manages the Penang International Sports Arena (Pisa).
“In 2001, I discovered that I could also market my emceeing skills as there was a demand for talented professional MCs. Emceeing is the favourite part of my job right now,” he says.
What qualifications are needed to get into event management?
I have a degree in Mass Communication but no one has asked to see it in years! In PR, the degree is much more important that in event management. I guess it would help if you had a qualification in Management, Marketing, Sound Engineering, Art, Design and other related fields.
Paper qualifications aside, you would need planning skills, communication skills and persuasive skills in order to deal with people from different levels, from the manager to the technician.
You would also need to be outgoing, creative, energetic and charismatic.
What does an event manager do?
While PR has to do with press relations, advertising, communications and publicity work, event management requires you to look into every aspect of the event from planning, conceptualising, publicity, finance, marketing, sales, sponsorship, logistics, venue preparation, the list goes on. Even the launching gimmicks, sound and lights have to be looked into.
The different categories of events include banquets (which involve Food and Beverage), concerts & shows (entertainment), exhibitions (trade & consumer) and sports events.
Describe a typical day in your life as an event manager.
Pre-event days are comparatively relaxed with meetings and paperwork to attend to and follow-up to be done. We liase with the top man in the day-to-day operations, be it the hotel GM, CEO or branch manager. This is important as PR decisions almost always have to be cleared by them due to their very public nature.
Event days are hectic with hands-on personnel in the venue for up to 12 hours a day for the duration of the event!
What is the best part about the job?
I like to be involved in the overall conceptualisation of the event and see it to completion. It is never dull because I get to continuously be part of exciting and auspicious events such as launchings, openings, carnivals, festivals, anniversaries and much more. In fact, at every event, I meet new people, make new friends and learn something new.
Describe a memorable event you have managed.
At the Penang Culinary Expo, I was kept on stage all afternoon on the last day playing games with the visitors and giving away tonnes of sponsored gifts. The crowd was so sporting and we all had so much fun. It was the public response and participation that made it memorable.
What's the salary range like?
Back in the days when I started working, my starting pay was about RM 2,200. Today, PR practitioners earn between RM 3,000-RM5,000 per month and for successful event managers, the sky is the limit.
Being a consultant suits me because I treasure my freedom, independence and the opportunity to make decisions. My goal is to retire before 40 and only work on projects that I really love and enjoy.