Wednesday, May 15, 2013


By Joe Chelliah D.N.S., A.N.S., P.J.K.
The writer Joe Chelliah is a musician cum educator since 1960 and is an events consultant since     1993.  His vast experience includes managing an assortment of corporate events from annual dinners and company outings  to family carnivals and launch for clients such as Motorola, Texas Instruments, Petronas, UEM Group, PLUS, MRCB, Perodua, Westport, Northport, FELDA and MIDA.


An event can be any social happening can be and have become part and parcel of our cultural landscape that involve the government, corporate or community sectors. However, event management still remains an unregulated “business.  Events cover a wide array of purposes including entertainment,  education, sports, life style events, religion, seminars, marketing , branding and what not..

The very term “management” implies overcoming significant problems and managing them.  So, event management is also problem management in reality.   There are literally thousands of self-proclaimed event managers and because there is no official regulating body anyone can be an event manager.  This in itself is a problem.  The construction industry in contrast is regulated by various bodies including the CIDB and contractors are graded from A to F. 

It is my contention that event management is about handling any problem that arises in an event from planning and conceptualizing to the final delivery.  I must also state unequivocally that managing an event and organizing an event organizer are totally different sides of the same coin.  This distinction must be understood clearly. The event organizer is the one who is hosting and paying for the event while the event manager is the professional who is paid to manage the event.  The management of problems in most events generally revolves around:

a)     The client
b)     The suppliers 
c)      The entertainers 
d)     The budget 
e)     Quality Control

Professionals are needed to manage an event smoothly 
Managing The Client

Client expectations are usually very high and this makes them also very anxious of the outcome of the event.  I call this “client trauma”.  A good event manger must manage this trauma from the design stage itself with much tact and diplomacy. The client may have had bad experiences with a previous event which might have been badly managed.   Allaying the client’s fears and worries by highlighting the event manager’s track record with visuals and videos does help.  This strategy is better than giving references like in the old days.

 Clients’ expectations can even be unreasonable at times given the poor budget allocation.   Thus the lowering of a client’s expectations and then exceeding it in the final delivery helps establish the event mangers credibility in the long run. Most clients are often taken in by smooth sales talk. It is better to remind and warn the client of Murphy’s Law in advance ….that is “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and more so in the use of electronic equipment.  The client can be reassured that the equipment being used is well maintained and fairly new.

Some clients indeed try to manage or part-manage the event by unnecessarily by procuring certain items or artistes themselves thinking it is cheaper. This is not necessarily true.  They can also keep breathing down the event manager’s back like a “mandore” and this too can be a hindrance to the event manager’s team.  Artistes or suppliers contracted directly will usually only listen to the client and may not follow the instructions of the event manager.  It is always best to have one event manger who sees the forest as a whole and not merely the trees or branches as would a supplier or an artiste.  Too many cooks can spoil the soup.

Managing The Suppliers

There is such a thing called a supplier mentality, trust me. The supplier’s main interest is to supply what he has been contracted for.  Of course that does not mean he is not bothered about the event but his view is only of his “tree or branch” and not the “forest”. These days some suppliers have also become event managers and some are actually doing well.  Suppliers tend to impress the client by the fact that they own all the things being supplied.  Suppliers are also only interested to rent equipment from their own stable even if such logistics may not be always be suitable for the event.  Event managers on the other hand will think for the client and procure only the most suitable and the latest stuff available in the market for the event.

Many clients seldom know that suppliers have two sets of rates for their logistic rentals – one for event managers and one for clients they are not the same. It is just like any retail and wholesale business.   The client always gets the higher price tag while a significant discount is given to the event manager to “cari makan”.  Just as there are A to Z category event managers, suppliers too can be categorized along similar lines. Good event mangers can differentiate them

Thus a sound working knowledge of the latest artistes and AV equipment available in the country  is essential to be a good event manager. This usually comes from experience and a constant updating  of the  latest trends, artistes and AV logistics available.

A Family Carnival in Stadium Settings

 Managing The Entertainers

Entertainers are usually the main attraction and crowd pullers.  This aspect can go wrong for a host of  reasons such as mismatching of an artiste with the audience,  insensitive handling of the artistes and poor stage production.  Most artistes are easy to handle if you exercise a bit of psychology and have a little common sense. 

Remember never to scold any performer in private or in public for anything even if they are as guilty as a fox with a chicken in its mouth.  They can be very sensitive and it is unwise to reprimand them for anything including such things as arriving just five minutes before the show without any rehearsal or sound check.  They can just walk away.  So it is of utmost importance to understand this and “tolerate” their idiosyncrasies, if any.  This happens more often with certain artistes who are convinced that they are superstars and deserve special treatment.  Event managers know how to handle such difficult but usually very popular artistes.

All artistes appreciate prompt payment and preferably in cash.  The 50% deposit must be paid in advance besides making all transport, accommodation, sound system and F & B requirements for the artiste and entourage.  The balance must be paid immediately after the show preferably in cash too.  If the artiste is paid in full even before the show after the sound check you assured of a good show from the artiste.

There are cases where artistes had been paid nothing else other than the 50% deposit.  The event manager goes missing after the show is over or refuses to take calls from the artiste concerned for the balance payment.  Generally, artistes know who the really professional event managers are and are happy to work with such managers. In any case, they will still perform for anyone who calls but pays them according to their terms or a no show situation can arise.  And finally, like suppliers, artistes too quote higher prices directly to clients when contacted but have a lower rate for event managers.  And yes, there are still some artistes who come with an unessarily large entourage comprising  of not only legitimate make-up artistes or technicians but also boy/girl friends, children or friends or relatives.


Managing artistes at a show is an event management skill  – even with clowns

The Budget

This of course is the main problem often precipitated by the supply and demand factor.  Event managers are a dime a dozen today as are artistes. Knowing this, a client may tend to squeeze the event manager particularly if the procurement department folks of the bigger multi-national companies come into the picture.  Such people treat the entertainment people in the same way the procure pipes and nails for their companies from vendors.  In the 1990’s a medium budget annual dinner could cost anything above RM 50,000.  These days the budget for a similar event can be as low as RM 15,000 and the clients still ask for the “wow” factor with such a budget.  Given the growing number of event managers to choose from this situation is not likely to go away.

Managing the Quality Control (QC) in Events

To manage and  to QC well, an event manager has to know what quality is in the first place and therefore have proper experience and a sound working knowledge.  Any microphone can be used for example but a good event manager must first know what a quality microphone is in the first place.  For example, in supplying the sound system the size of the crowd, whether the venue is indoor or outdoor, the sound pressure level (SPL), the acoustics of the venue and so on must all be factored in.  It becomes all the more important with the mass availability of made-in China clones that have flooded the market in almost every facet of audio-visual logistics in Malaysia.  Of course most clients do not know the difference but it is imperative for a good event manager.  Some “good” event managers intentionally use cheaper sub-standard AV equipment to maximize their profit and in this way would definitely compromise on quality.  Clients can be unaware of such tactics.

Concluding Remarks

As in any business there is always the profit motive and survival in the entertainment world of event management needs a delicate balance and juggling between reputation and quality and there are many quality event managers in Malaysia but sadly they are heavily outnumbered by lesser event managers in this “dog-eat-dog” industry.  Generally, what you pay is what you get.

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