Jackie Mulligan reports from a conference connecting events management students to the industry they hope to move into.
Now in its 4th year, Manchester Met has been quietly pioneering a conference that takes events management students out of the classroom to attend a real conference. The event, MMU Connect, certainly seemed to wow the students I spoke to after this year’s edition.
For some of the first-year students, it was their first experience of a real-life conference, complete with keynotes, breakout sessions and a networking lunch with 60 industry practitioners.
‘Connect’ is a great example of how industry, academia and students can meet to share knowledge and opportunities, pretty important considering professionalisation was the subject under discussion on the very same day by the BVEP in London.
The University held the event off campus at the Radisson Blu Edwardian in Manchester. Head of the events management course, Shaun Litler, explained: “Hosting Connect off Campus sets the scene of professionalism and the students present themselves smartly. Their attitudes change as they are out of their comfort zone and they behave more like young professionals. They take pride in the fact that they are sitting in a ‘real’ conference in a five-star venue, with ‘real’ people.”
This year speakers included Roger Barrett (Star Events – providing insights into temporary event structures), Nicky Roche discussing the Olympics and Paralympics and Liz Young (head of events for Historic and Royal Palaces) as well as me, discussing future trends in meetings and my role as strategic director of events at Game Republic.
Litler believes an event that gets students out of the classroom is crucial. “They meet face to face with industry professionals who are at the top of their field… from technicians, to facility managers, managing directors to catering managers. It widens students’ perspectives on which jobs are out there. It’s not just about wedding planners and festival organisers.”
Getting so many industry reps to attend a student event must be seen as a triumph. Lucy Pittaway, lecturer in events management, is pleased with the growth of the event and says: “In the early years, attracting industry was a challenge, but now I have industry contacting me asking when it’s taking place. It gives eventprofs a chance to inspire and give something back to the next generation. Job interviews and volunteering opportunities have come off the back of the event. It really is about ‘connecting’ our students to industry.”
Sarah Bickerton, assistant director of events at Manchester Central adds: “We’re passionate about encouraging the next generation of events talent at Manchester Central and the MMU Connect conference provides us with a great opportunity to do that.
“Myself and my colleagues network with the students, providing advice on how they can achieve their career aspirations within the industry. It’s great to see how enthusiastic and eager they are to glean insights.”
Other industry attendees included WRG, Manchester International Festival, Manchester Arena, Ground Control and The Lowry Hotel. The event also attracts MMU events alumni and the graduate panel this year answered questions from the students.