The Events Management Development Institute (EMDI) provides aspiring event managers and promoters in the region with training and on-the-job experience.
Founder Nowshir Engineer talks to S&S about the company's unqiue approach to training and its bid to improve professional standards across multiple disciplines.
How have the dynamics of the live events industry changed in recent years?
Live events have become intrinsic elements in many corporate marketing campaigns. BMW and Nokia are both very involved in staging events. The Nokia brand is now practically synonymous with live events in some countries across the region.
What has been the industry's response to this?
Event managers love it! They are inundated with corporate work. Meetings and incentives are other sectors of the industry that are booming, particularly in Dubai. We have structured many of our training courses to address this trend.
How are the courses at the EMDI structured?
We are probably the only education services provider operating in the region that employs no in-house faculty staff. We have a structured curriculum and for each lecture we stage we invite an industry expert to come and talk about specific issues.
We feel our students receive greater value learning from these guys than they would from academics.
Do many of these guest lecturers work locally?
Yes, mostly. They often have international experience working in Europe or Asia, which is hugely beneficial particularly when applied to the local market.
It is important that our students not only get to grips with the technical demands of their jobs but also that they learn to appreciate the cultural differences that separate working here to other territories.
How location-specific is this knowledge? Is it easily transferable?
The skill sets involved in event management are more comparable to medicine than say law. If you study medicine you can practice it anywhere but the interpretation of law changes from place to place.
There are EMDI graduates now working in South Africa and Mexico who regularly touch base with us requesting their course material because they are working on similar projects in these countries. The skills acquired generally transfer well because it is a service industry.
What skills and knowledge do you look to impart on your students?
Event management is mainly about common sense. What we aim to do is expose our students to a whole range of disciplines and ways of working over the course of one year.
That way they can learn from their mistakes in a risk-free environment.
What do you look for in prospective students?
I think the most important thing a student should have is passion for the industry. We work to de-glamourise the industry and make the students realise that to be successful they have to put in a lot of hard work.
They're not spending their time on the job hanging out with celebrities; most of the time they're dealing with issues happening backstage.
Working in events is a thankless task a lot of the time: the artist can make your life difficult, there are sleepless nights, you have to work every public holiday... you need to be extremely passionate to be successful. The other vital quality is an eye for detail. There are so many little things that can be taken for granted.
How important is knowledge of entertainment technology?
An event manager has to be a jack of all trades. While we try not to overwhelm our students with technical details, we do encourage them to approach their work from a variety of perspectives and to think about what certain technical staff would require at certain times to do their jobs.
What's your take on claims that the UAE now boasts a world-class live events industry?
The industry is still developing. Once Dubailand is completed and Abu Dhabi is further along its development path we will begin to see the industry realise its true potential.
In saying that, the corporate events sector is booming. Some of the world's biggest companies are now staging meetings and events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
How does the live entertainment production sector stack up then in terms of growth?
I think the entertainment industry has remained fairly static in terms of growth. The number of major Western acts performing in Dubai each year hasn't really increased the past couple of years, despite the hype.
This is partly because the cost of staging these events has increased. My belief is that ticket prices in Dubai are quite expensive but that is the result of the increasing cost of putting on these shows in the first place.
If the same event costs more to put on now than it did a few years ago, then it is only fair that the ticket price should go up as well.
Do you think the industry needs to regulated at an official level?
We still need an events management industry body to ensure that professional standards remain high across the board. The industry also requires a certain degree of regulation to ensure its development is steered in the right direction.
What issues require urgent attention in your opinion?
The industry's growth in Dubai will continue to be hamstrung by the lack of a purpose-built world-class indoor venue.
Temporary venues are not the answer. My belief is that with the right venue and the right artist, a promoter could easily attract a crowd of 50,000.
Communication within the industry could also be improved. For example the Mariah Carey concert in Dubai a few years ago was staged on the same night as the ZEE Cine Awards. The organisers should have arranged to hold their events on separate nights.
Instead there was no communication, and as a result they both lost out in terms of audience numbers.