Special Events
Special Event Forecast 2008

Special Event Forecast 2008

Get ready to get creative. The new year should bring plenty of event work — just not plentiful budgets to do it all.

Our annual survey of in-house and independent event professionals points to continued confidence in the event market for 2008. Half of all in-house event pros and nearly 60 percent of independents predict they will stage more events this year than in 2007 (see graph on page 80). Only 5 percent of in-house pros and a scant 4 percent of independents say they will stage fewer events this year than last.

But everyone will have to do more with less: The No. 1 challenge named by both in-house and independent pros is a smaller budget to work with.

In some ways, the special event industry is a victim of its own exploding popularity, which is documented daily on TV shows. “From Martha Stewart to Colin Cowie, from HGTV's ‘Design Star' to Kimora Lee Simmons, clients have been schooled by the best of the best,” notes Ira Mitchell-Steiman, director of creative with Miami-based DMC All Over Miami. “The only challenge is that these fabulous people and media stars do not share the actual costs or the labor intensity necessary to produce these fabulous over-the-top events.” The solution? “I believe it is necessary to educate our clients now more than ever to the actual costs and perceived versus actual value of our services,” he says.

COSTS CLIMBING

Indeed, many of the Special Events Magazine Advisory Board members interviewed for this article bemoan the problem of rising costs, especially fuel. “While spending on weddings in our market has increased 10 percent to 15 percent, the cost of insurance has risen 18 percent, and the cost of fuel almost exponentially,” notes Larry Ott, general manager of Open Aire Affairs in Newtown, Pa., a collection of elegant venues. To cope, “We take care in planning routes to save on fuel, we scrutinize vendors in all aspects of the business — from physical suppliers of tables, chairs and tenting to insurance, finance and banking — and we look for unique business opportunities that may not fit within our current parameters.”

Cutting down on fuel use fuels another trend Ott predicts for 2008: the need to “think, act and live ‘green.'” He notes, “The fact is that cutting back on energy output will lower expenses while helping the planet, and using resources again and again will save on replacement costs.”

Environmentally responsible practices — going green — is no fad in events today. “Companies are committing by setting goals toward achieving sustainability,” notes Debra Brash, catering director with the Hyatt Deerfield in Deerfield, Ill. “Results are expected.” She counts using recycled items in events, switching to energy-efficient lighting and using organic foods in menus as business advantages in today's competitive hotel market. “Competition is being built all around us,” she notes. “Many different hotel products within the chains will afford greater choices. Much of this was planned when business was booming — will the market change that?”

ECONOMY ON EDGE?

Several Advisory Board members note rumblings in the media about a potential slowdown in the U.S. economy this year, which could easily prod corporations to cut their event budgets.

“Our challenge as an industry will be to demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of special events,” notes Janet Elkins, head of Los Angeles-based EventWorks. And she thinks that challenge can be met: “There are still great opportunities in the event industry,” she says. “Traditional advertisers aren't seeing the same ROI they used to get by advertising in the traditional channels such as radio and television,” she says. “Event marketing and mobile events that allow companies to interact directly with consumers, bypassing costly media advertising, have the potential to be a big market in the coming years.”

Economic turbulence in the U.S. affects events worldwide. When the U.S. dollar dips, “A contract negotiated in Dallas where funds are being paid to a foreign entity may cost you money if exchange rates are not addressed in your contract,” notes Debbie Meyers, CSEP, head of Dallas-based Bravo Entertainment. On the other hand, U.S. event suppliers may find that a cheaper dollar brings event producers worldwide to the U.S. to stage their events, she adds.

MAKING YOUR OWN LUCK

When it comes to boosting business this year, many event pros plan to create their own opportunities.

“Being in a niche business, we need to create opportunities where none exists,” explains Dale Harmon, special events coordinator for the Silver Spring, Md.-based event-foliage provider Plants Alive. “This, hopefully, will inherently increase interest, therefore increasing sales.” Plants Alive management will be adding various decorative planters to its line. “Because there are a limited number of plants that can withstand the rigors of plant rental, new planters seem to be the best way to give the creative customer a new and different look,” Harmon explains.

All Over Miami is cutting out the middleman to win more business. Rather than working solely through relationships with meeting planners, venue management and hoteliers, “It is imperative for us to go to corporate directly to get the jump on the competition,” Mitchell-Steiman explains. His company's “in your face” marketing efforts — which include trade shows, event sponsorships and good old wining and dining — have paid off: “Our last 10 events were purely developed through direct communication and approach,” he says “The proof is in the bank.”

Joyce Scardina Becker, founder of wedding design firm Events of Distinction in San Francisco, is set to embrace the spectrum of clients in today's wedding market. “We are now marketing to three generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y — also known as Echo Boomers and Millenials,” she explains. “We now have a younger associate whom we expect will be able to relate to our younger clients more effectively so that we can better meet their needs.”

Janna Harala, events manager with software giant Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., has the enviable problem of creating events so large that she sees her main challenge in 2008 as finding venues big enough to hold them.

Yet her work in the heartland of high tech shows the unchanging power of special events — their unique ability to create true person-to-person interaction. She sees her opportunities in 2008 as “the ability to get people to come together.”

“With our company being global and people working via e-mail, phone, IM [instant messaging] and other devices, many people they ‘work with' are never seen,” she says. “Some of my events will be designed to help people network face-to-face and meet in person for the first time.”

HOW WILL THE NUMBER OF SPECIAL EVENTS YOU STAGE THIS YEAR COMPARE WITH LAST YEAR?

(RESPONSES FOR EACH NEW YEAR, 2003-2008)

“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%
Response for 2008 49%
Independent event professionals
Response for 2003 61%
Response for 2004 60%
Response for 2005 62%
Response for 2006 69%
Response for 2007 63%
Response for 2008 59%
“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 40%
Response for 2007 38%
Response for 2008 39%
Independent event professionals
Response for 2003 21%
Response for 2004 23%
Response for 2005 17%
Response for 2006 16%
Response for 2007 23%
Response for 2008 24%
“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%
Response for 2008 5%
Independent event professionals
Response for 2003 7%
Response for 2004 5%
Response for 2005 5%
Response for 2006 4%
Response for 2007 2%
Response for 2008 4%
Unsure (2008 responses)
In-house event professionals 6%
Independent event professionals 14%

FORECAST 2008

CHANGING CHALLENGES

What are the greatest challenges facing you professionally this year?

Multiple answers possible.

In-house event professionals
Reduced budgets
2004 60%
2005 56%
2006 51%
2007 54%
2008 51%
Shorter lead times
2004 43%
2005 40%
2006 42%
2007 43%
2008 32%
Labor shortage/lack of skilled labor
2004 29%
2005 28%
2006 26%
2007 30%
2008 23%
Demonstrating the value/ROI of special events
2004 n/a
2005 36%
2006 28%
2007 28%
2008 31%
An uncertain economy
2004 51%
2005 40%
2006 38%
2007 26%
2008 31%
My own company's uncertain finances
2004 17%
2005 17%
2006 18%
2007 19%
2008 17%
Dealing with my company's procurement/purchasing department
2004 n/a
2005 16%
2006 14%
2007 14%
2008 13%
Coping with new technology
2004 6%
2005 9%
2006 7%
2007 8%
2008 7%
No answer/other
2008 13%
Independent event professionals
Reduced client budgets
2004 n/a
2005 70%
2006 59%
2007 57%
2008 59%
An uncertain economy
2004 79%
2005 64%
2006 50%
2007 49%
2008 57%
Increased competition
2004 42%
2005 39%
2006 41%
2007 49%
2008 39%
Shorter lead times
2004 n/a
2005 33%
2006 34%
2007 32%
2008 29%
Demonstrating the value/ROI of special events
2004 n/a
2005 28%
2006 28%
2007 27%
2008 24%
Labor shortage/lack of skilled labor
2004 14%
2005 15%
2006 19%
2007 23%
2008 21%
Dealing with my client's procurement/purchasing department
2004 n/a
2005 17%
2006 16%
2007 12%
2008 10%
Consolidation of client base
2004 22%
2005 14%
2006 9%
2007 9%
2008 6%
Coping with new technology
2004 7%
2005 6%
2006 6%
2007 6%
2008 11%
No answer/other
2008 7%

RESOURCES

All Over Miami
305/754-0392
www.allovermiami.com

Bravo Entertainment
972/960-2525
www.bravo4u.com

Events of Distinction
415/751-0211
www.eventsofdistinction.com

EventWorks
323/321-1793
www.eventworks.com

Hyatt Deerfield
847/945-3400
www.hyatt.com

Microsoft
425/707-7331
www.microsoft.com

Open Aire Affairs
215/860-1859
www.openaireaffairs.com

Plants Alive!
301/598-3843
www.plants-alive.com

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