What are Special Events?

Not a definitive answer – but this is the view of the ASE editor.

The Special Event industry can be divided into five broad categories, Public Events, Corporate Events, Sporting Events, Private Events and Festivals.

In broad terms what makes an event special is the incorporation of some form of entertainment.

We are all familiar with the biggest Public Events such as the New Years Eve celebrations, Australia Day celebrations, parades such as Melbourne’s Moomba and Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and of course the Olympics Opening and Closing ceremonies.

Then there are Corporate Events such as product launches and promotions, fashion parades, cocktail parties, themed dinners, conference opening and closing ceremonies and gala dinners.

Sporting Events become “special” by the addition of entertainment – half time entertainment, grand final productions, opening ceremonies, etc.

Private Events include celebrations such as birthday parties, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.

For a fuller description of the Event industry see What are Special Events? by Johnny Allen, former Director, Australian Centre for Event Management

A brief history of the Event industry
The term “Special Event” was coined by Robert Jani from the original Disneyland. This is how it came about…

In the 1950’s Walt Disney opened his first theme park in Anaheim, California. When his guests began to depart in the early afternoon on opening day the distraught Mr Disney turned to his director of public relations, Robert Jani, and reportedly asked him to find an attraction to retain them.

Jani developed the Main Street Electric Parade. This night time event has entertained millions and resulted in the capturing millions of dollars in revenue which would have otherwise been lost.

When the local media asked Jani to name this unique attraction he used the term “special event”. When asked to define this novel term Jani replied “I guess it is something that is different from a normal day of living”.

Special Events in Australia
In Australia the Corporate Event industry started as “Business Theatre”. In the 70’s and 80’s conference organizers started to incorporate A/V presentations. Beginning with simple slide shows as speaker support (to supplement or replace whiteboards and overhead projectors), then developing into multi projector and multi-screen shows. These presentations then became more elaborate as entertainment was added to the mix.

Many of the early event producers came from a theatre or entertainment background and started adding theatrical and entertainment elements to these shows.

Public Events have been a feature in Australia for a long time with annual events such as Australia Day, the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the Melbourne Moomba parade, Adelaide’s John Martin’s Christmas Pageant and the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Sporting Events came into their own in Brisbane when at the 1982 Commonwealth Games the ABC TV producer of the opening ceremony wanted something more visual than the usual displays of massed athletes and/or schoolchildren. And so the 5m high, winking “Matilda” mascot made her way into the main arena and launched Ric Birch’s new career as a producer of major events.

Party Planners or Wedding Organizers have organized private functions for many years and continue to provide professional organization for these events.