Is a rally an event?

Last Saturday I attended an event. It was an event like most others. It had a stage and a PA. It had speakers and an audience. The event had been advertised – mainly through social media – and with a few hundred in attendance the organiser had done pretty well. There was a buzz and clearly a collective will shared by speakers and participants to hear and discuss the content that had been curated.

Social media was in play. With the attendees encouraged to share images the organisers hoped to spread that awareness much further than those attending the event. Several attendees were live streaming the speeches.

So here we had a “hybrid event” with a physical venue and a start time: 12pm outside the European Commission building in Edinburgh’s west end. So this continued to look like a by-the-book traditional event. Speeches were short, TED short; there’s even an element of the un-conference I thought.

Every event – especially a rally – needs an objective

The event even had a clear objective. And it was with this objective that the event became different. The objective was simply “to show solidarity for the anti austerity message in Greece” An objective shared by speakers and audience. The location and the time were chosen to support the objective. Taking place at the weekend in a public space the organisers hoped to raise awareness of the issues affecting Greece. By ending the march with a procession down Princess Street – one of the busiest road in Edinburgh – they hoped to boost the awareness to Edinburgh’s citizens and visitors. All in all this was a very traditional event set up.

Anti austerity demonstrators march along Princess Street

Anti austerity demonstrators march along Princess Street

There were of course a few unusual things going on. Firstly that objective: that was hardly traditional. With each speaker clasping a megaphone as they bounded up a few concrete steps to rally the rally the stage and sound system were rather ad hoc. Traffic edged through a multicoloured, placard holding mass before the police closed the road. Occasionally, puncturing the applause, chants spread through the crowd. And after an hour of speeches the event was on the move. This was beginning to look very different.

Taking the stage at Anti Austerity Demonstration in Edinburgh

Organisers take the stage at anti austerity demonstration in Edinburgh

Is a rally an event in the industry sense?

Despite the differences this was an event run by an event organiser. And it got me thinking about that organiser and the industry in which I fit:

  • Where does this type of event and event organiser sit in our industry?
  • Who represents them?
  • Who offers them training and support?
  • Who helps them make the most of the events they run?
  • Should our industry embrace these events and these organisers?
  • Is the “events industry” leaning from these events and these organisers?
  • Do they even consider themselves event organisers?
  • How many of these events and event organisers are there?

Often we talk about the term “event industry” being too broad to really make any sense. But this got me thinking. Perhaps it’s not broad enough?