Those who manage public assembly venues are continually challenged to operate them in ways that bring success to venue ownership while meeting the needs of those who utilize them. Accomplishing this daunting task is neither simple, nor is it consistent from venue to venue. Venues vary in mission based upon type, location, and goals set by those in leadership. In order to achieve the established goals, management must continually fine-tune its venue management skills and keep abreast of ever-changing social and economic trends in our society.
The International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) has previously published two editions of a textbook on the topic (2004 and 2009). For this new textbook, Public Assembly Venue Management: Sports, Entertainment, Meeting, and Convention Venues, my co-authors and I have endeavored to assemble as much new information as possible and organize it in a way that takes public assembly venue management education and professional development to a new level. The book examines the history and role of public assembly venues, followed by the other significant areas of venue management including venue ownership and management, business and financial management, booking the venue, marketing and sales, ticketing and access management, event and ancillary revenue sources, venue operations and services, event management and services, and safety and security. These chapters not only address the functions common to all venues, but also illustrate how different disciplines apply to venue management. The appendices include numerous industry examples and supplemental information to support the learning process. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2.
KEY SKILLS OF THE VENUE MANAGER
Regardless of who owns the venue, what method of management is used to oversee the venue, the venue type or location, the capabilities of the venue manager are essential for the venue to meet expectations. The venue manager is the one element that can overcome challenges, grasp opportunities, and direct the operation that can lead the venue to success. If the manager has the necessary abilities, knowledge, desire, tenacity, and stamina to fulfill the mission, then all else is just a process. With that in mind, the following are the key skills a manager should have to manage the venue successfully.
Ability to Negotiate
One of the most important managerial skills that a manager of a public assembly venue must possess is the ability to be an effective negotiator. Negotiation is a part of everyday life for the venue manager. Whether it is a negotiation with an employee on the outcomes of a work project or the artist fee and merchandise commission rate with a talent agent, public assembly venue managers must effectively negotiate with others to achieve results that are in the best interest of the venue and the organization managing the venue.
Every venue manager must be able to skillfully negotiate a contract. Some of the more common types of contracts that venue managers must negotiate include, but are not limited to:
- Venue rental/license agreements
- Contracts with service providers in areas such as ticketing
- Maintenance supplies and landscaping
- Food and beverage services
- Co-promotion talent contracts/artist agreements
- Union labor agreements
The outcomes of negotiations for most contracts have financial implications for the venue manager. It is critical for the venue manager to understand those financial implications and how the other parties, including the venue’s governing body and ownership, will view them. More and more, public assembly venue managers are being judged and evaluated on the venue’s bottom line.
It must be noted that different venue managers have different levels of authority to negotiate certain contracts. Some managers have no real authority to commit the resources of the organization in a negotiation. Some managers have the ability to negotiate terms of an agreement but must then seek final approval from some form of higher authority. Others have both the ability to negotiate the terms of an agreement and to make the final approval of those terms. In some ways, the effectiveness of some public assembly venue managers is reflective of the amount of authority they have to negotiate contracts.
Venue management is a business like any other that provides many opportunities for ethical lapses in judgment. Venues and promoters have a long history of successful relationships, but also at times those relationships are strained. Entertainment promoters often are small, entrepreneurial companies and executing profitable events is their sole livelihood. It is extremely important that the venue manager cultivates and maintains a reputation for honesty, forthrightness, and consistency in following standard, acceptable business practices in what can, at times, be a somewhat undefined business environment.
Many venue managers are employees of or have contracted with governmental entities such as city government or state colleges or universities. Service in government carries another dimension of ethical obligations, with many legal/criminal liabilities for misconduct. The codes of ethics of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) are shown in Figures 2.5 and 2.6. Note that a theme common to both documents is the duty to refrain from any conflict of interest, that is, any activity that may be in conflict with the interests of the venue manager’s employer or owner of the venue. The successful venue manager develops and abides by a personal code of ethics and demands the same from all employees.
No matter how the venue’s management structure is organized, operating a public assembly venue on a daily basis is very demanding and requires a manager who possesses a unique intelligence combination of a strong IQ (traditional intelligence quotient) and an equally strong EQ (emotional intelligence quotient). These combined forms of intelligence provide the ability to acquire the knowledge base from which the manager can draw upon in order to skillfully manage. Venue managers who are not capable of quickly recognizing and appropriately responding to existing or foreseeable situations, especially when under pressure, will not survive. Good managers tend to be people-oriented, inquisitive, eager to learn and apply new management and business principles, and intensely devoted to fulfilling their job responsibilities. In today’s competitive market environment, the successful manager must also be intelligent, responsive, knowledgeable, persistent, flexible, and an excellent motivator and leader.
Successful venue managers possess an extensive understanding of each managerial function associated with the operation of a public assembly venue. They also understand how the venue is organized and how that impacts the operational alternatives. Managers of this stature have acquired their knowledge and experience through varying scenarios. In some cases, a manager may have come up through the ranks, advancing from an entry-level position to higher or different positions within the organizational structure, and then eventually being elevated to venue manager. This form of career development generally ensures that the individual has had personal involvement with many of the venue’s operational units and in all probability, has had the opportunity to work with venue contractual agreements and the process of conducting financial settlements.
Other managers may have developed their careers by starting at mid-level management positions such as venue operations, marketing, or promotions and then being promoted to venue manager. On-the-job training has proven an effective way to gain information, but is not the only method and may not be the most efficient method for gaining the requisite knowledge and leadership training. Similar to trial and error, on-the-job training can sometimes be painful and expensive compared to a well-structured training program. It is critical that the venue’s management structure be organized in such a way to include strong, consistent, effective training and professional development programs. These programs need to be customized to the job functions, education, and experience levels of the employees involved. Cross-training by moving personnel around the various departments is an excellent way in which to impart and continue institutional knowledge within the staff. However, even though there is an element of on-the-job training in all management career development routes, other education opportunities exist that can impart lifelong learning.
Team Building Abilities
Even with all the skills necessary to be successful, the venue manager must also be able to motivate the staff in a way that encourages all employees to dedicate themselves to the mission, not only to accomplish their respective responsibilities, but also to provide support for their fellow employees.
President Harry Truman once said, “It is amazing what people can accomplish, when they have no concern for who receives the credit.” Team building is as important as any aspect of the public assembly venue management process. Creating an atmosphere in the workplace that employees enjoy will encourage them to be more dedicated and more involved in the entire process of management. The successful venue manager will recognize the importance of building a successful “team” and will reap the benefits for both management and ownership.
Even though a venue’s mission may not emphasize the creation of new revenue centers or new revenue streams, skilled venue managers will focus energies toward becoming creative and entrepreneurial in seeking out opportunities that serve to maximize the venue’s resources and thereby generate additional income. The creative manager knows how to package a public assembly venue in a way that is attractive to businesses, promoters, and customers. The entrepreneurial manager knows how to devise and implement marketing and promotional strategies capable of producing favorable financial results. Increasingly, bottom-line financial data are used to evaluate both the manager’s and the venue’s success or failure. Consequently, both the manager and the venue run the risk of elimination if they do not achieve the economic expectation and thus become an economic drain on their funding source(s).
Ability to Communicate
Effective communication is a key element in successful venue management. Public assembly venue managers must be able to effectively communicate with distinct groups: the owner(s), governing body, staff, tenants, event presenters, media, attendees, and the community at large. It is the manager’s responsibility to develop and maintain direct and efficient two-way lines of verbal and written communication with each of these groups.
The successful manager is a team leader who can work effectively in the present environment while envisioning and preparing for the future, is a consummate advocate of the public assembly venue and its potential, and is aggressive in striving to achieve announced goals. Managers’ visions should both inspire and motivate all within the organization. In addition, the successful manager is not only efficient and productive but also skilled in dealing with delegation of responsibilities, discipline, organization, and creativity, and most importantly, leading by example.
This new textbook provides students and industry professionals with a solid foundation for understanding today’s venues, while assisting faculty in teaching the important theoretical and conceptual issues within the context of public assembly venue management. Recognizing the practical nature of this discipline, we worked to incorporate 100+ years of industry experience into the text and companion materials. We also extend our appreciation to numerous industry professionals for their assistance in reviewing content, providing industry examples, and sharing their expertise.
The textbook may be ordered online at www.iavm.org/textbook, and faculty may request a review copy with companion materials at the same site. To assist in classroom application, the companion materials for faculty include presentations, test banks, class discussion topics/activities, case studies, course projects, and a sample syllabus with class schedules. We hope this text will serve as the new, essential resource for the fundamentals, principles, and practices of public assembly venue management. FM