Special Events
FORECAST 2007

FORECAST 2007

TIGHT turnaround times? A given. Reporting an event's ROI? Old hat. In special events, yesterday's challenges are today's norms.

The good news: Most special event professionals predict a strong year for business in 2007. A total of 57 percent of event planners — both in-house and independent — say they expect to stage more events in 2007 than they did in 2006. Just under 30 percent say they will likely stage the same number this year as they did last year, and less than 4 percent say they will stage fewer events. (See charts this page, at right.)

Members of Special Events Magazine's Advisory Board see a surge in business.

“Vendors of various disciplines are reporting early bookings, and there is a buzz already that we don't remember from last year,” says Barbara Wallace, CSEP, of Barbara Wallace Weddings in Corona del Mar, Calif. “I have seen more weddings booking 10 to 12 months out than we had last year, and they are generally getting bigger, both in number of guests and budget.”

Yet even with demand for special events running strong, event planners can't relax and enjoy the party. Indeed, the very popularity of special events brings its own set of problems.

Foremost, our Advisory Board members say, is the challenge of providing the ever-more-sophisticated events that their sophisticated clients demand.

FOCUS, NOT FLUFF

“Both consumer and business audiences have higher expectations of the brands they choose to align themselves with,” explains Richard Foulkes, director of special events for London-based Imagination Ltd. “As a result, each brand has to work much harder to develop and sustain a relationship with them. Therefore the events, which are created for brands, have to be more engaging. The content needs to be substantial and, to be frank, gone are the days of too much fluff and not enough focus. Events now have to engage, entertain and deliver messages that hit all the touch points of current society whilst being true to the brand values of the client.”

Along with producing sophisticated events, event pros will have to become more sophisticated about how events are both costed out and paid for.

As she prepares to create events for her employer this year, Sharon Marsh, CMP, operations manager of global programs/meetings services for San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems, will focus on identifying preferred vendors “who are trained in our internal processes and guidelines,” she explains. She expects this process to reduce the number of vendors she works with but will give her “the ability to do more with less.” Marsh also expects the payment process will go faster thanks to the use of credit card programs.

This increased attention to payment cuts both ways. Steve Kemble of Dallas-based Steve Kemble Event Design believes that planners will spend more time this year “educating our clients that we are here to produce events, not finance them,” he says. “We are not the bank and cannot float a $250,000 party for 30 or more days. I use the analogy that we are like a restaurant: You eat, you pay!”

SOURCING STAFF

Busy event producers need a talented staff but so does every other business, which makes good employees hard to come by.

“With a 20 percent increase in business, the biggest challenge has been to provide the staffing necessary to maintain the level of service that our clients demand,” says Nancy Brockway, customer service supervisor of Hall's Rental in Niles, Ill.

The pressure to find the right people is so intense that Schaumburg, Ill.-based Total Event Resources has added a human resources consultant. Her job: “To help in the process of identifying new talent on a continuing basis so that we are focused on serving our clients while she can be focused on finding us the best professionals in the industry,” explains company president Kathy Miller. “As the industry is on the upswing and it becomes a seller's market, the employee pool of available talent becomes slimmer for seasoned professionals. It becomes harder and harder as a small entrepreneurial company to entice industry professionals to your organization.”

NO SURPRISES

And what will keep the party going in 2007? The consensus of our Advisory Board: stability.

The event business will stay strong if we have “an ‘uneventful’ year from a political and business perspective,” notes Howard Givner, president of New York-based Paint the Town Red. “Sudden change is not good for our industry.”

Bill Pry, an owner of Skokie, Ill.-based BBJ Linen, agrees. “Hopefully the economy will stay up,” he says, “causing corporations to keep spending and thus consumers feeling good about treating themselves to nice weddings and social events.”

RESOURCES

Barbara Wallace Weddings, 949/40-7843; BBJ Linen, 847/329-8400; Cisco Systems, 408/526-4000; Hall's Rental, 847/929-2222; Imagination Ltd., +44 (0)20 7323 3300; Paint the Town Red, 212/677-3173; Total Event Resources, 847/397-2200

HOW WILL THE NUMBER OF SPECIAL EVENTS YOU STAGE THIS YEAR COMPARE WITH LAST YEAR?
(RESPONSES FOR EACH NEW YEAR, 2003-2007)

“We will stage more events this year”
In-house event professionals
Response for 2003 43%
Response for 2004 47%
Response for 2005 52%
Response for 2006 51%
Response for 2007 50%
Independent event professionals
Response for 2003 61%
Response for 2004 60%
Response for 2005 62%
Response for 2006 69%
Response for 2007 63%
“We will stage approximately the same number”
In-house event professionals
Response for 2003 44%
Response for 2004 45%
Response for 2005 41%
Response for 2006 0%
Response for 2007 38%
Independent event professionals
Response for 2003 21%
Response for 2004 23%
Response for 2005 17%
Response for 2006 16%
Response for 2007 23%
“We will stage fewer this year”
In-house event professionals
Response for 2003 5%
Response for 2004 6%
Response for 2005 4%
Response for 2006 3%
Response for 2007 6%
Independent event professionals
Response for 2003 7%
Response for 2004 5%
Response for 2005 5%
Response for 2006 4%
Response for 2007 2%
Unsure (2007 responses)
In-house event professionals 7%
Independent event professional 12%

CHANGING CHALLENGES

What are the greatest challenges facing you professionally this year? Multiple answers possible.

In-house event professionals
Reduced budgets to work with
Response for 2004 60%
Response for 2005 56%
Response for 2006 51%
Response for 2007 54%
Shorter lead times
Response for 2004 43%
Response for 2005 40%
Response for 2006 42%
Response for 2007 43%
Labor shortage/lack of skilled labor
Response for 2004 29%
Response for 2005 28%
Response for 2006 26%
Response for 2007 30%
Demonstrating the value/ROI of special events
Response for 2004 n/a
Response for 2005 36%
Response for 2006 28%
Response for 2007 28%
An uncertain economy
Response for 2004 51%
Response for 2005 40%
Response for 2006 38%
Response for 2007 26%
My own company's uncertain finances
Response for 2004 17%
Response for 2005 17%
Response for 2006 18%
Response for 2007 19%
Dealing with my company's procurement/purchasing department
Response for 2004 n/a
Response for 2005 16%
Response for 2006 14%
Response for 2007 14%
Coping with new technology
Response for 2004 6%
Response for 2005 9%
Response for 2006 7%
Response for 2007 8%
No answer/Other (response for 2007)
In-house 11%
Independent 8%
Independent event professionals
Reduced client budgets
Response for 2004 n/a
Response for 2005 70%
Response for 2006 59%
Response for 2007 57%
An uncertain economy
Response for 2004 79%
Response for 2005 64%
Response for 2006 50%
Response for 2007 49%
Increased competition
Response for 2004 42%
Response for 2005 39%
Response for 2006 41%
Response for 2007 49%
Shorter lead times
Response for 2004 n/a
Response for 2005 33%
Response for 2006 34%
Response for 2007 32%
Demonstrating the value/ROI of special events
Response for 2004 n/a
Response for 2005 28%
Response for 2006 28%
Response for 2007 27%
Dealing with my client's procurement/purchasing department
Response for 2004 n/a
Response for 2005 17%
Response for 2006 16%
Response for 2007 12%
Labor shortage/lack of skilled labor
Response for 2004 14%
Response for 2005 15%
Response for 2006 19%
Response for 2007 23%
Consolidation of client base
Response for 2004 22%
Response for 2005 14%
Response for 2006 9%
Response for 2007 9%
Coping with new technology
Response for 2004 7%
Response for 2005 6%
Response for 2006 6%
Response for 2007 6%
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