Defining and Measuring Special Events

When I wrote my first text book in 1989, my publisher called me and soberly stated “We must hyphenate the term special –  events.”  Her reason for this hyphenation exercise was that the term special events was new and did not appear in the Oxford or other major dictionaries.  Therefore, she argued that the term special –  events was an adjective describing a type of experience rather than an entire industry.

Eventually I won the argument and the term special events was restored as a noun, representing an entire industry. To acheve this outcome I had to provide evidence from major organisations such as The Walt Disney Company that the term special event was used to describe a wide range many types of live events.  I was successful, however, the manuscript for the book had been submitted to the publisher and I was told it could cost thousands of dollars to remove each hyphen.  A few days later, the gleeful publisher called me to enthusiastically announce that all hyphens had been removed without any additional costs due to the recent invention of a new tchnology called global spell check!

Therefore, as this story indicates, definitions are important.  They may impact many future generations and their remuneration.  It is important to get the definition right.

Doug Matthews has written an interesting analysis of definitions of the term special events and it is well worth reading.

However, regardless of which definition you accept or adapt for your own use, I still believe that my early defitniion of a special event is a unique moment in time celebrated with ceremony and ritual to satisfy specific needs has stood the test of time.  Each event, even those that recur year upon year, is delivered in a unique manner and uniquely received by its participants through specific ceremonies and rituals that are incorporated to add meaning to this event and ultimately to satiate the specific needs of the audience (participants),

In a recent facebook post, event planner and theorist Nick Borelli examined the question of whether all events should be evaluated.  In my experience, whether it be formative or summative, all events are indeed evaluated.  For example, at a social event, if dancing is expected and after a few songs are performed by the band only a few people take to the dance floor, as the old saying goes, “Houston, we have a problem.”  So, whether the evaluation is anecdotal, qualitative or quantitative, it is important to monitor the guest experience and use this evaluation to analyse ways in which to imrpove the overall outcome of the event experience.

In my new book of memoirs, I discuss the development of the special events industry during the past three decades and how, although definitions have changed and evaluation has become much more sophisticated, events are still primarily reasons to bring people together for a common purpose to in some small or major way, improve their lives.

I would like to hear your thoughts so, add a comment to my blog and let’s discuss this further. www.joegoldblatt/category/blog


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