Q&As With Special Events Guru Neal Heitz


Neal Heitz

Neal Heitz

Culpwrit: Describe the difference between event marketing and special events?

Neal: There’s a fine line between event marketing and special events and its largely based on the objective. What is the event trying accomplish? To me, an event is an event, is an event. I frequently discuss with my students that there isn’t much difference in planning a 4-year-old’s birthday party and planning Lollapoolza. The format always stays the same. Yes, the details vary, the food changes, the entertainment is drastically different and venue selection is distinct but the PROCESS is still the same.

Robert Jani, creator of the Main Street Electric Lights Parade for Disney World once defined a special event as “That which is different from a normal day of living.”

Event marketing and special events are both creating experiences for end users that are different than their normal day to day lives. The distinction between the two simply depends on the objective of the event.

Culpwrit: What personal characteristics do you look for in someone pursuing a career in special events?

Neal: The standard answer most people assume event leaders are looking for are “creative” and “organized” and while those characteristics are necessary (they really are) however, that’s just the starting point.  Everyone looking to be involved in the world of special events SHOULD BE creative and organized.  Drilling down a little further and finding out if someone is patient, calm, well-spoken, thoughtful and humble are really important qualities for someone to posses in this business. The world of special events doesn’t need another Don Draper to sit around and come up with brilliant ideas. Special events needs people that are willing to jump in, work hard and always remember to stay focused.

Culpwrit: What are the job prospects in this field? 

Events are finally being seen as opportunities.  While virtual touch points and traditional media can “spread the word” nothing connects people better than a live event. And there is certainly big money to be made in live events.  It’s obvious when you look at the event world in Chicago. Every summer we see more and more neighborhood festivals, more and more athletic events from serious 5k’s to colored corn-starch flinging running races that end with lots of beer. And while successful events are important to a producer, client or sponsor the larger picture is even more enticing….Economic Impact.  If an event has a positive economic impact on the community then it’s a real win/win.

The second answer is that baby boomers are retiring and they’re not sitting around watching television. Baby boomers are active.  They’re out doing things. They’re headed to all sorts of events.  So if you can produce events that appeal to an older demographic and create a positive economic impact in the surrounding community than I would say your job prospect looks good.

Culpwrit: What would you recommend for a student to do while in college to prepare for a career like yours?

Neal: Students need to prepare themselves for a career in special events. College will provide some basic underlying fundamentals, but the actual experience needs to come from the student’s own self designed curriculum.  hey need to use the time in college to gain a very firm understanding of the following topics:

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