Events aren't going anywhere -- at least not anytime soon. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meeting planners are expected to see higher than average career growth through 2028, at around 7 percent. To help train the next generation of event professionals and provide those already in the field with additional tools, the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality at New York University has introduced a new event management master's of science degree.
The graduate-level program, which started this fall, will prepare students for event-planning careers across private, public and not-for-profit organizations. Candidates will have to complete 36 credits, including a core curriculum and elective courses across three different tracks: business development, sports-event management and event operations. Students also are required to complete an internship.
Lauren Grech, adjunct professor of the NYU program and CEO of LLG Agency, which offers global wedding services, will be teaching one of the core courses on event production and design. In an exclusive interview, Grech shared her thoughts on the future of the events industry and discussed her process for developing the course, which will include new event standards for hotels and resorts.
Q: What gaps in the industry does the program seek to address?
Lauren Grech: The goal is for students to walk away with an accredited event-management education. Right now, a lot of people found their way in this industry through experience, by learning the craft from others and taking mentorship programs. Event professionals have been establishing themselves through experience-based education. However, event management is really turning into its own career and its own field of specialty. It’s about having the theory of how the event works and the practical application and tools to be able to apply it.
That’s why I think the NYU program is so forward-thinking and progressive. It's allowing event professionals to show students how to take their knowledge and apply it in the real world. It's not just setting them up for understanding theory, it's setting them up for future success in this industry.
Q: How did you develop the curriculum for your course?
Grech: I developed the event design and production class, which is a core-curriculum component. I started by going back and looking at how event management has transformed over the past five to 10 years, and how people were defining event management. I realized that a lot of it was through project-management definitions. Yet, nobody was applying project management to events. So in the course, we go over which project-management skills are needed, what personality [traits] you should have to be successful in the industry, how to build an event timeline and how to budget.
When I was defining that budget, I evaluated a lot of different contracts and paperwork. That's what got me to realize that, wow, there is no standard across hotels or across vendors in terms of their contracts and their event paperwork. So, I started to build one for how to correspond with a client, how to charge and price for your services, how to manage guests and vendors, how to build an event budget and which criteria venues need to meet.
One thing we talk about is food-and-beverage packages -- what they should look like, what should they be priced at and what should they include? We also look at site rental fees and why is it $2,000 in one place versus $10,000 in another? We're now asking these questions of why, as opposed to just accepting that these are what the costs are. The standards will help bring transparency to the industry.
Q: Who is the program designed for?
Grech: I would say it is designed for newcomers and for people that have been in the industry for 30 years, who want to come back and get a more formal education. My creative director is even sitting in on the class because it's just a different perspective on how you run an event and how you look at event correspondence and event design.
It's being taught by people who have been in the industry for years, have their own businesses, and are now coming in and saying, “This is what I learned. This is what I could do better. This is what I wish I knew.”
We're no longer teaching theory of events. We're no longer saying, “This is the way it should be done.” We're actually showing and sharing that, “This is how it has been done and this is how we can make it better.” I think that is game-changing because you have real professionals who are still running their event-management or design companies coming here and taking the time to educate these students.
It's really quite remarkable -- putting all these people in one room and saying, “Let's change the industry. Let's make a difference. Let's make an impact, a global impact.” There's no better place to do it than NYU because NYU is so global. They have students from New York City and students who are international, as well as campuses all over the world
Q: Where do you see the events industry going in the future?
Grech: I think the event industry is on the precipice of a massive change right now. A lot of our clients are looking at Instagram to validate or verify an event vendor or an event space. Today’s consumer is highly educated and is gathering inspiration from not just Instagram, but also Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn. They're questioning everything.
They’re saying to event professionals, “Why you? Why should we hire you? What's your differentiator? What is your business plan? Why are you charging $1,000 for this arrangement while someone else is charging $2,000?” With these types of questions, you're going to see a shift in event management. The professionals who come to the forefront are going to be the ones who can answer those questions.