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Specialized master’s degree prepares students for transformation of mega-events

Specialized master’s degree prepares students for transformation of mega-events

The effects of COVID-19, the need for safety and the increasing use of technology have intensified the demand for well-versed professionals in mega-events.

March 29, 2022 at 12:00am

From the Super Bowl to the Olympics and concerts to political conventions, mega-events are evolving faster than ever to satisfy the demand and need for safety. At the same time, the level of creativity and technology-infused has upped the ante for more creatively designed, immersive and emotive experiences that delight event-goers and keep drawing crowds.

“Mega-events are not going away,” says FIU hospitality management Professor Dan Cormany of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Cormany stresses that they’re only coming back quicker than expected. He notes that people are eager to get back to their lives, be entertained and take part in meaningful events that will help them emerge from the pandemic doldrums.

But there are considerable changes for events that attract more than 10,000 people, he says, and the M.S. in Hospitality Management: Mega-Events track is being shaped to address these changes better.

Knowledgeable instructors

Tapping into industry professionals and events for students, the FIU program, available 100% online, offers real-world knowledge of event management from those who have firm credentials in the field and understand the nuances of the shifts that are occurring.

“The specialized mega-events marketing course is taught by the person who has provided the marketing for the last nine Olympics. The safety and security course is taught by Ray Martinez, who was the executive director of the Miami Super Bowl and handles all of the security for the Ultra Music Festival. And FIU has an advisory council of 18 professionals from large firms in South Florida who meet twice a year to discuss what it is that students need and don’t have in the industry currently,” Cormany says. 

Aside from the curricula, the Chaplin School offers students numerous opportunities to gain hands-on experience with yearly events like the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine and Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF®) and the Formula One Grand Prix, which will take place in Miami in May. The Formula One Grand Prix could be the largest event undertaken in Miami history, Cormany notes.

Student view

“I think what most surprised me was all the opportunities that the program has to offer—such as internships, volunteering and connections—not only in Miami, but throughout Florida and other places,” says Gabriela Cortes Garriga, an intern at Kovens Conference Center, FIU Biscayne Bay Campus, and an FIU master’s degree student in the program.

Along the same lines, FIU online degree graduate student Angelica Saez realized what she wanted to specialize in because of the volunteer opportunities the Chaplin School made available.

“I was able to work at the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival®, which made me very excited and sparked my passion for planning large events that support the food and beverage industry,” says Saez, who works as a junior special events manager at FIU’s Graham Center.

Evolving industry

From technology and design, sponsorships and marketing to the overall customer experience, today’s mega-events have accelerated in all areas. A growing dearth in the number of professionals who can adequately handle the needs of today’s mega-events is the result, Cormany explains, so it’s important to provide these hands-on experiences, but also be aware of what’s coming.

“These are multi-million-dollar undertakings, and we’re still trying to figure out the new feasibility elements that have been changing month to month,” says Cormany who outlines seven areas that are evolving.

Change 1: Hybrid events 

“Technology is used more,” says Cormany. During COVID, most events are running concurrent hybrid events online.

“It’s almost like you’re planning two different events and the production quality of the hybrid event has to be higher than what you might do with general video conferencing tools.” 

He adds that facial recognition technology will help with recordkeeping for environmental purposes or with regard to health and safety. 

Change 2: Risk management for health 

For in-person events, registration needs now are much more thorough with COVID-19 as there is a health component that cannot be ignored. Spacing and capacity issues, masks, antibacterial gel stations, contact tracing, liability—all of these items have to be considered under risk management for mega-events. 

Change 3: Greater sponsorship

In the wake of these changes, there are greater costs. Mega-event production companies are looking for funding to recoup costs from sponsors rather than the public. Ticket pricing is “peaking out”—there’s only so much a person will pay for events like these, offers Cormany. 

“Sponsorships used to cover about 30 percent of the costs, but by 2026, it is predicted to reach up to 60 percent,” he says. “This need requires people with the knowledge of how to obtain sponsorships from the industry.” 

Change 4: Targeted marketing

Marketing today is also very “sliced and diced” into segments through social media. This allows event management to reach prospective event-goers with efficiency to secure the sales needed for the shows to go on. The siloed nature of the entertainment business is no more as it grasps expertise from a range of professions. 

Change 5: Over-the-top experiences

People want experiences and will not settle for the same pyrotechnics of the past. Now, it’s 140 flatscreen televisions and it’s interactive digital experiences, and event engagement that provide the unforgettable wow-factor that keeps audiences guessing.

Change 6: Plan B

The last two years taught us that state regulations can change because of outside forces, therefore, as part of risk management, there must always be a “plan B” contingency for mega events—many times this involves double planning. 

Change 7: Sustainability

The newest area of mega-events is sustainability, adds Cormany.

“We’ve taken big steps on recycling, food saving and recycling, but there are other elements,” he adds by referencing research that suggests effects on bird mating because of Coachella and on fish species because of the Ultra Music Festival. 

“The needs are becoming more interconnected than 20 to 30 years ago,” Cormany concludes. “All of our advisors acknowledge that it is an unsure time, but overall, are very enthused for people to go out and ‘live’ again.”

Dan Cormany


Gabriela Cortes Garriga


Angelica Saez