Special Events

HEAR, HEAR

LONGTIME READERS OF this column know that I believe professional associations pay you back for your investment of time and money. The latest Eventworld — the annual ISES professional development conference — was a great investment.

If you missed the August conference, you missed “At the Events” — Tim Lundy, CSEP, of Rosewood Market in Highlands, N.C., and Steve Kemble, of Steve Kemble Event Design, Dallas, giving the thumbs up and thumbs down to recent special events. With wit and style (what else would you expect from these two?), the pair gave the infamous Super Bowl halftime ceremonies the thumbs down, while the lively opening ceremonies at the Athens Olympics got the thumbs up. Beyond the fun format, the session gave attendees real-world examples of problems in staging events, with audience members quick to share both their challenges and their successes.

Another timely session — “Rush, Rush, Rush” — looked at managing last-minute events. Jaclyn Bernstein of Empire Force Events in New York and Stacy Stern, CSEP, of The Special Events Group in Boca Raton, Fla., offered tips for producing successful events in the face of shrinking lead times. Despite the obvious problems, tight turnarounds also present opportunities — “There's money in these events,” Stern stressed. Bernstein noted that her company's team approach to handling events has been blessing, adding, “We're in the short-term event business now.”

The conference not only helped event pros produce events in today's tough climate, but gave a taste of things to come. Colja Dams of Germany's Vok Dams Gruppe shared news about the pricing hurdle that European event producers have been grappling with — the online “reverse auction,” a wicked game of musical chairs where a client's event budget keeps dropping until the last event producer willing to stay in the game “wins” the project.

I realize that the thought of sharing solutions with — gasp! — the competition is still enough to make some event pros tune out. But doing so sets you up for two dangerous traps.

First, you might miss learning about a better product, a better process or a better approach for an event you are working on. And second, by focusing so intently on your competition, you may lose focus on something far more important — your customer.

In this month's Guest Room, party rental proprietor extraordinaire Betsy Stone talks about how she built her former business, Sisters, into one of the most profitable event rental outlets in the United States. “I know that I have to worry about competition,” she says. “But I really just look at being very competitive with myself. You have to listen to your customer.”

P.S.Special Events Magazine has some news worth listening to: We are debuting our new e-mail newsletter, Eventline. We hope to hear your raves!

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