Special Events

Event Forecast for 2009: Only the Essentials

If the lousy economic news has ruined your event enthusiasm, you've come to the right place.

Every year our January issue brings you the nominees for the Special Events Magazine Gala Awards. Turn to page 28 and enjoy great events from marketing campaigns to mitzvahs.

Our January issue also brings you our annual event industry forecast. Since 2003, our research department has polled in-house and independent event professionals to reveal their challenges and opportunities in the year ahead, and the response to this year's survey comes as no surprise. Predictably, our respondents say that the sour economy worldwide will be their greatest challenge in 2009. “An uncertain economy” is listed by 78 percent of in-house event pros and a whopping 88 percent of independents as their greatest challenge. In contrast, only 31 percent of in-house event pros cited an uncertain economy as a big challenge in 2008, while 57 percent of independents worried about it a year ago. Turn to page 24 for the full story.

Besides the statistics you can see in the charts, our survey also asks for specifics from our readers. And when we asked what the “secret to success” would be in 2009, our research department churned out a record nine pages of replies sent to us — the most overwhelming response I've seen in my 10 years with Special Events.

The “secrets” vary widely, from “be creative” to “control costs” to “leave no stone unturned.” Plenty of respondents said simply, “I wish I knew.”

One word, however, came up more than any other: flexibility. Event pros know that staying successful — indeed, simply staying afloat — in 2009 will require enormous flexibility in the face of shrinking events and shriveling budgets. The reality — and it's a sobering one — is that we have to change how we do things. The question hanging in the air: How?

We know that embellishment and excess won't fly. Events that include an altruistic element — community outreach, for example — make sense now. And if anyone still thinks that eco-friendly events are just a fad, wake up and smell the organic coffee.

Veteran event pro CB Wismar considers this question in “Guest Room,” starting on page 20. He calls on the industry to “reconstruct, redesign, re-create, reengineer the essentials of any event to come out with something that has meaning and purpose but is scaled back to its ultimate efficiency.”

I should write the close to my own editorials. But I just can't say it any better.

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