Special Events
Lisa Hurley Photo by Nadine Froger Photography

Editor's Page: Events at the Epicenter

Special Events editor Lisa Hurley on the emerging role of special events as the springboard for social media efforts

As many of you will remember—and it's a painful memory—face-to-face events took a beating during the Great Recession. Travel was too expensive, staffing was too expensive—and besides, all communication was going virtual, wasn't it?

What a difference the years make. Today, face-to-face events are at the epicenter of major marketing campaigns, as the big event producers we profile in our annual "50 Top Event Companies" prove.

Events are no longer the "nice to have" add-ons to campaigns. Instead, they are often the guts of a marketing program. "Experiential marketing is now in a place where events are no longer on the fringes of the marketing mix," says Jeff Kalpak, head of New York-based Barkley Kalpak Agency. "They are the center of it.

One big reason, of course, is the rise of social media. As many of us discovered after viewing thousands of forgettable posts and tweets, social media too often is just the channel, or as some commentators call it, the "dumb pipe." Without compelling content, social media is a frenzy of mindless messages, a lot of noise about nothing.

Enter events.

Events, as they always have, provide irreplaceable interaction. As Mark Baltazar, head of New York-based Broadstreet, puts it, "Attendees are gravitating towards events that provide community, human interaction and nondigital shared experiences."

And the icing on the communication cake: Those event attendees—newly energized and eager to showcase what's on their mind at that moment—snap and post and comment, spreading the event message far and wide. Savvy clients and event designers understand this: "Clients are asking for 'selfie moments,'" as Baltazar puts it, "experiences and personalities that provoke an automatic response from attendees to snap a shot to post online."

Indeed, sophisticated event pros take the power of these social-media mavens quite seriously.

"We’ve had to legitimately shift our focus to the attendees at the center of those experiences as influencers," Kalpak says. He describes them as "a savvy bunch with short attention spans and finely tuned B.S. meters, armed with an opinion, a mobile device and followers." Turn to page 11 for the full story.

We're also proud to bring you the smart thinking of five event planners who create fundraising galas that keep on giving. We hope that our cover story, which begins on page 23, will inspire you to try something new—or stick with something traditional if that's best—for your event.

And our sweet finale: a look at the DIY trend for desserts. Bring along a blow torch to create the cutest mini baked Alaskas ever. Photo by Nadine Froger Photography.

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