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What Are The Different Types Of Events? Learn what YOU need to know!

Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Mark Norman

I’ve had the privilege of working in the events industry for over 25 years, so I’m very familiar with the different types of events.

In that time I’ve been responsible for thousands of events across a spectrum of different sectors and different audiences.

In this post, I’m going to try and explain how the industry is broken down into different sectors so if you’re new to the industry or looking to start a career here you can understand what are the different types of events you need to know about.

There are fundamentally two types of events, business, and leisure. Underneath these, there is a wide range of sub-sectors covering a vast array of different events.

First of all, let’s start with the basics of what is an event, event management, and then the different types of events.

By the way, here is one of my favorite venues, Silverstone in the UK:

Types of Events: Silverstone

What Is An Event?

Events are temporary, occur once, and involve the assembly of people for a particular purpose

Although events are often held on an annual basis, they are still considered temporary. 

The events industry in the US was valued at ¢1,135.4 billion in 2019 according to Allied Research. It is expected to reach $1,552.9 billion by 2028 so the opportunities around events continue to expand.

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What Is Event Management?

Events management is considered the practice of the organization, implementation, or coordination of activities related to achieving the event objectives.

Ultimately all events need people to organize and coordinate them, but it comes with pressure. Because events occur only once and have a deadline, there can be tremendous pressure on organizers. 

According to Careercast being an event planner is the 5th most stressful job in America (After being in the military, firefighters, and pilots!).

Why Do People Attend Events?

For any event, It is really important to understand who the target audience is. By doing this you can better design the event experience for them. 

According to research some of the motivations to attend events include:

  • To relax and have fun
  • Socialize with friends
  • Participate in activities
  • Experience new things
  • Do something different
  • To celebrate something

Further to this, make sure that you do research on your audience both before and after your event so that you can improve their experience in the future.  


What Are The Different Types of Events?

There are many different ways in which events are defined. 

For the most part, we can categorize events either by size or type. There are other methods, but these two are the most common to use.


What Are The Different Types Of Events By Size?

There are typically 4 ways of categorizing events by size:

Local Events

These are the smallest types of events and can include things like a local community festival or a local business networking lunch. On their own, they are unlikely to draw a huge audience or generate much interest from a tourism perspective. 

The impacts of events like these are likely to be limited on the local economy and require few resources to plan and implement them.

Major Events

The next step up is major events, and the major difference with these types of events is that they attract people from outside the location as visitors. 

These types of events are typically hosted by large venues or towns and cities to generate economic income from visitors.

Examples might be a city food festival or a large trade show where people will travel solely for the event.

Hallmark Events

Hallmark events are those that become very associated with the place in which they are held. These events have a huge appeal to visitors and generate large numbers of economic income.

There is usually national or international media coverage of the event. A good example of a Hallmark event is the Glastonbury music festival. This event is synonymous with the small town bearing the same name (although the festival is actually held a few miles away, closer to a village called Pilton). 

Mega-Events

Mega events are the largest of all both in terms of their impact and the number of people who attend. example of a mega-event is the Olympic games or the FIFA World Cup. 

Both of these events take place every 4 years and move around the world in a competitive bidding process.

For the host city or country, there is the opportunity for extensive media coverage from around the world which can lead to substantial economic income and regeneration.

In 2022, I was lucky enough to attend one such Mega-Event, The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK. I had a pretty good view as you can see:

Types of Events - Commonwealth Games, 2022
Birmingham

What Are The Different Types Of Events By Type?

There are two different types of events, business, and leisure. All events will fit into one of these two categories. 

Now within each of these two sectors, there are multiple sub-sectors of events. It is even possible for leisure and business events to crossover.

Event Types

Different Types of Events – Business

As the name suggests this relates to all business events that take place in the course of the workplace or doing business. 

Every type of business will be involved in some kind of event from freelancers to large international corporations. At each of these levels, the objectives to host or attend events will be different depending on what outcomes they are seeking.

There are some common types of business events that most business organizations will engage with, such as tradeshows or exhibitions. 

It is worth noting that of the list below it is not uncommon for a single large event to have a mixture of each of these types of events. 

For example at a trade show, there may also be seminars, workshops, or networking events alongside the main activity of the exhibition stands.

Seminars

Seminars are small events that have a specific focus and a particular target audience in mind. They generally take place in a business environment and serve to deliver highly useful information on the subject matter.  This is often educational content.

Seminars often include speakers who will lead and contribute to the subject matter and stimulate discussion around the room.

Networking Events

Networking is one of the main reasons why people attend events. Networking opportunities can help grow businesses, and promote collaborations and partnerships. Forbes gives three reasons why business people should consider attending networking events. 

As with some of the larger events, networking can often be part of things like conferences and trade shows. event organizers will make time and space for people to network and connect, both face-to-face and using technology.

Conferences

Conferences are large versions of seminars and have multiple tracks or themes running through the entire event. 

Conferences are often organized by trade associations or membership organizations to invite their members (mostly annually) to come together for information sharing and networking. 

These events can often have a social element or trade show attached to them. A conference is also very good at reaching a wide range of audiences interested in a particular subject.

Tradeshows

Tradeshow - Formula E - Saudia

Trade shows focus on personal selling either to other businesses or to consumers.

Trade shows and exhibitions have booths that businesses book to meet and network with potential customers. 

Alongside the exhibition or trade show, there are likely to be other activities such as seminars and workshops.  

Trade shows are often used by businesses to generate leads for their business comma to network with existing customers or to Showcase new products or services.

Workshops

These slightly different versions of business events where the owners may be on collaborate between parties to offer some kind of training sessions. 

Workshops can often be used to bring ideas together from a group of people such as employees or members of an organization.  They can also be used to solve a problem or develop a strategy and are particularly good in this respect for inclusion and collaboration.

Product Launches

A product launch event is a way for a business to formally announce a new product line or service. They are often invite-only including key members of the press and industry in the hope they will attract positive media coverage. 

It is usual for a senior executive from the business to give a keynote speech and for a product demonstration to take place. It is also common for product launch events to be live-streamed on the internet.

Here is Steve Jobs launching the first ever iPhone at an event in 2007:

Product Demonstrations

As we mentioned above, product demonstrations are often part of a product launch event, but they can also be individual events in their own right. They are often used to attract media coverage for a new product or service, particularly in a business-to-business environment. 

They also take place in business-to-customer environments such as supermarkets or shopping malls.

This activity is often called experiential marketing as businesses pay to allow customers to try their product or service for free in the hope that they will buy it.

Keynotes / Lectures

Keynote speeches are often a common way to open a large event like a conference or trade show by inviting an established or renowned speaker from a particular industry to come and give the keynote speech. 

This type of event can also be found as an event on its own, more often known as a lecture. these can be academic or industry based. They are often by invitation only, but some do sell tickets. 

Awards Night

Awards nights are often part of a larger event, but they can also exist as standalone occurrences.  there is usually a gala dinner attached to an awards night where are guests present awards to winners throughout the evening. 

The dress code for awards night is typically formal and often by invite only, although some do sell tickets. 


Different Types of Events – Leisure

Leisure events cover a broad range of different events that can range from a very small gathering of people right up to hundreds of thousands attending. 

One of the key differences between business and leisure events is that people are looking for experiences from leisure events. This is therefore a key criterion when planning this type of event.

Another difference with leisure events is that the attendees are general members of the public and not businesses. 

Leisure events can be broadly split into four areas, social, sport, cultural, and community. 


Different Types of Events – Social

Private Parties

Private parties range in size and in value. these cover everything from birthday parties, christenings, baby showers graduation parties. 

Most of these types of events will be organized privately by members of the public, but there are event planners who are businesses supporting people planning just this type of event. 

One of the key opportunities around private parties is the opportunity for themed events. Think Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc. Check out this page from Eventologists for some 75 party theme ideas to inspire you.

Weddings

In 2019, 2.02 million people in the US got married (Statista). Weddings are very personal events and vary greatly across different cultures and religions around the world. 

Couples will often employ an event planner to support their big day given how much they can cost. According to The Knot, in 2021 the average cost of a wedding was $28,000!

Reunions

Reunions are the coming together of former friends and colleagues from High School, College or workplaces for a short-term celebration and to catch up.  

The organizing of reunions has been made much easier since the advent of social media and our ability to connect with old friends and colleagues in a much easier way.

Nightclub events

Dancing

Nightclub events have been in existence through most of the 20th century. essentially they are held during the nights in music venues across the country where the predominant activity is to go for a drink, socialize, and dance. 

There are variations of this concept comma particularly live music venues which operate slightly differently word primary driver of footfall is the music rather than the socializing or consumption of alcohol. If you are interested in how venues make money, see my other post on this topic

In the UK night clubs have seen a decline in popularity since the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the cost-of-living crisis in 2022 where it was estimated that night clubs are closing at a rate of one every two days. 


Different Types of Events – Sport

Sports events cover both participation and spectator. Statista reports that the sports event market was worth $12.44bn in 2022 and is expected to continue to grow. 

There is a clear cross-over between these two types of events as people often go to spectator other people participating in events.

Participation Sports Events

These events involve individuals or teams entering into and participating in competitive sports. The motivations and abilities will vary amongst different audiences but include events like running marathons, local soccer tournaments, athletics, or even dragon boat racing like this event in Hong Kong:

Spectator Sports Events

There are spectator sports events of all different sizes ranging from local community sport teams right through to mega-events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cups. As mentioned previously, these events move from country to country through a competitive bidding process.

Some of these sports events have built big brands like the NFL, The NBA, Formula 1 or Premier League soccer, which have revenues in the millions of dollars. 


Different Types of Events – Cultural

Music Concerts and Festivals

Music concerts and festivals involve performances of musicians to mass audiences. There are concert venues ranging from less than 100 people right up to the largest festivals in the world like Donauinselfest in Austria which attacts over 2 million attendees (BBC)

Music concerts and festivals are big business, in 2022 revenue in this sector is expected to reach $8.49 billion and then continue to grow at an annual rate of 9.49% (Statista)

Venues are an important part of this industry, see how they make money in this other post I wrote. 

Food Festivals 

Another important cultural event for many cities. Food festivals often showcase local food and drink from regional producers. They can often be combined with other types of events, such as music festivals. The Big Feastival is a great example of this, I took my family to this a couple of years ago!

These events have the ability to be high-value tourism events and elevate themselves into hallmark events where they become synonymous with the place they are held. 

There are some great examples of this, such as Ludlow Food Festival in the UK, Taste of Chicago or the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience.


Different Types of Community Events

Community Events

Such is the depth and variety of community events that is almost impossible to list them all individually in a post of this size.

One of the most common attributes though of community events is it they are planned by the community for the community. There is little or no tourism or economic gain from community events.

Check out this post for 15 ideas for community events

So there you have it, a quick introduction to the types of event across the industry. We hope you liked it!


References

Number of marriages in the United States from 1990 to 2020 – Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/195931/number-of-marriages-in-the-united-states-since-1990/

This Was the Average Cost of a Wedding in 2021 – The Knot: 

https://www.theknot.com/content/average-wedding-cost

Sports Events – United States

https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/eservices/event-tickets/sport-events/united-states