Event coordinator, guest services manager, parking operations manager, housekeeping supervisor, conversion manager, director of operations, sales manager, marketing manager, CFO, or general manager…regardless of title or rank within the organization and regardless of whether you teach in a formal classroom, we are ALL educators. We have an industry-wide responsibility to prepare our future leaders through education and mentorship.
Our future industry leaders come from a variety of academic disciplines and backgrounds. Some may come from sport management programs, which are primarily focused on sport and rarely address the entertainment segment of the industry. Some sport management programs offer no more than one class in facility or event management. Others may be housed in education and lack courses that address core business skills. In addition, most students in traditional sport management, entertainment management, or other academic disciplines do not begin their academic programs planning to pursue a career in venue management and likely have never considered it as an option. They dream of being a major league general manager or a division one athletic director. Undoubtedly, the faculties are working to broaden their horizons, but they need our assistance.
What Can You Do?
Venue managers can be more proactive in engaging directly with college and university programs, regardless of whether or not your venue is on a college campus. Venue professionals can connect with applicable undergraduate and graduate programs, such as sport management, entertainment management, criminal justice, or business-specific majors (i.e., marketing, management, finance, etc.). Through such relationships you could:
- Coordinate venue tours for classes, which help educate the students regarding the behind-the-scenes operations and can provide professional development opportunities for entry- or mid-level managers through public speaking and interacting with students.
- Coordinate hands-on venue activities for appropriate classes.
- Allow select students to shadow you for an afternoon or during an event so they get a first-hand look at work in the industry.
- Be a guest speaker in the classroom or digitally. Facilitate opportunities for other venue personnel to be guest speakers as part of their professional development.
- In conjunction with faculty, serve to evaluate student class projects or presentations from an industry perspective to enhance their learning experience.
- Teach a course as an adjunct professor. Oftentimes, the faculty member teaching a venue management course has never worked in a venue and the department will welcome industry involvement.
- Create a new class in conjunction with the department chair or dean.
- In conjunction with faculty, invite top students to participate in appropriate venue professional development activities.
- Educate faculty on available IAVM resources to support their student development efforts and the benefits of the IAVM faculty and student membership.
- Engage faculty to identify mutually beneficial joint research or industry projects. You may be able to conduct more in-depth customer satisfaction research or task a group of students to create a marketing plan for an upcoming event.
- Establish a source for event staff, interns, and/or future employees where you have had a hand in their development and preparation for the industry.
In addition to building relationships with specific academic programs, you can also work with other student organizations, such as concert boards, entertainment boards, or activities boards. Such groups exist to provide opportunities for students to learn about event programming, show promotion, and the entertainment industry while they work to bring events to campus. Often, these students may be interested in booking, marketing, event management, and the entertainment side of the industry in general.
Many public assembly venues offer internship programs in event services, marketing, booking, operations, and other areas. Such programs present a prime opportunity for us to educate future industry professionals in greater depth. Internship programs should be thoughtfully designed to provide meaningful educational opportunities and professional development, while interns work to support the overall venue mission. Ideally, interns are able to increase their level of responsibility during their time and be cross-trained in other departments. For example, a marketing intern may begin by learning the industry and venue-specific procedures and then eventually be tasked with creating a social media marketing proposal and assisting with analyzing data and generating reports. He or she may also be offered the opportunity to participate in training for new operations personnel who are practicing a conversion from hockey to basketball. Other internship programs are structured such that interns spend a specified amount of time in each department to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the overall venue operations. Regardless of the structure, we need to create meaningful experiences that prepare them for the industry and reinforce the importance of ethics and integrity.
Another important part of our responsibility as educators is to encourage and develop young industry professionals. Management can create their own professional development programs by providing onsite training opportunities and enabling young managers to expand their knowledge by working in other departments and sharing industry resources. For example, you may be able to coordinate with local resources to offer practical certifications such as CPR/AED/First Aid or broader leadership or team-building training activities. In addition, IAVM offers onsite live training programs including Trained Crowd Manager, Mindset: Situational Awareness, and Active Threat / Active Shooter.
Certainly, involvement in IAVM is key to advancement and networking opportunities for young professionals. IAVM’s venue group membership offers a wonderful opportunity to get more individuals involved ($3,000 for up to 20 members, which represents a total savings of $9,400 in dues and initiation fees). Travel budgets may not permit participation in VenueConnect, IAVM sector conferences, or IAVM life safety programs, but young professionals may more easily participate in events offered by their respective IAVM region or chapter. We can also promote and support their involvement in other IAVM programs and initiatives, such as the 30|UNDER|30, which focuses on identifying and developing the talent of venue industry professionals and the various scholarships available for IAVM’s intensive continuing education programs.
Formal mentor programs, such as IAVM’s Mentor Connector Program, offer an opportunity for the mentee to work with an industry mentor outside their venue. The mentee benefits from gaining first-hand knowledge, networking, skill development, and support to realize their professional goals. At the same time, mentors sharpen their skills, make a personal impact on the development of others, and strengthen IAVM and its members. Both are guided by a coach that helps ensure the success of the relationship and provides support as needed. Participation in programs such as this not only serves to expand the mentee’s industry knowledge, it also enables him/her to learn the many unspoken rules that can be critical for success. The mentor is also exposed to fresh perspectives and provided an opportunity to further develop a personal leadership style and reflect on one’s own goals and practices.
Beyond the classroom and formalized internship and mentorship programs, we are continually leading, coaching, and guiding. We set the standard and the example of how to work as a team, how to best achieve the organization’s goals, and generally, how to conduct business. With the speed at which most venue managers operate, it can be difficult to find time to focus on education and mentoring. While it may require a concerted effort, it is our responsibility to ensure the advancement of our continually changing industry. Better still, a legacy of educating and mentoring others carries with it an expectation that the recipients should continue those efforts. We are ALL educators. FM
(Image: Jason Hensel)