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Special Events

'And Now, for Something Completely Different ...'

THIS PHRASE CONJURES up anticipation, excitement, fear. It tells us we are about to experience something new.

This month I am talking about change. Change is one of the most important concepts within the special event industry.

Our industry has embraced change far more openly than many other industries and has incorporated new ideas into events. All event organizers and suppliers worth their salt are out there trying to provide clients with "something different."

Are you? I hope you are, because change is what keeps our industry fresh. If you want to play it safe, then go work in a bank!

Change often also means risk, stress, uncertainty, even failure-but the benefits nearly always outweigh the downside.

New developments are also what keep public relations companies such as mine in business (so I am a little biased!), and it was whilst following a story at a recent corporate event that the subject of change came up with a colleague and friend, Dave Crump, managing director of Screenco.

Screenco is a global supplier of large outdoor video screens, with branches in Australia and Holland and a North American partner, ScreenWorks, in Los Angeles and Dallas. You have seen Screenco's screens at events such as the recent Rolling Stones worldwide tour.

For this particular corporate event, Screenco supplied two large LED screens to transmit a 45-minute satellite linkup between the U.K. event site and two U.S. events running in tandem. This widened celebrations from the 2,500-member English work force to include their compatriots abroad.

The standards at this event-from the marquees and catering to the staging and video broadcast element-impressed us. Work at this level inspires corporations to invest in events to encourage and reward their work forces.

The organizer's main risk (other than the unpredictable English weather!) was undoubtedly the satellite link, but even in the event of that failing, a camera was on-site transmitting the live entertainment to the screens for the audience. Crump and I both commented on the shrewdness of the organizer for giving the client a state-of-the-art event, with the risks of live satellite links but with backups in place. We agreed that this is the way to introduce changes.

On a corporate level, ongoing changes within the very structure of companies have also become important in delivering a healthy bottom line. Being a global company with international offices has become essential for many companies, which need to get maximum utilization on very expensive assets.

As for smaller companies, they have also recognized the need for new trading structures involving cooperation on both national and international levels.

Back in the '80s, capitalization and growth came largely through companies outside the special event industry "diversifying" and buying their way in. This trend now seems to have reversed, and the industry has witnessed a series of mergers to facilitate growth.

Two event experts-Tony Timms of Classic Lighting here in the U.K. and Martin Van Keken of M. Van Keken & Associates of Canada-were trendsetters in this area with the formation of Classic International last year. Their own companies have each introduced innovative ideas to their respective home markets over the years and are exemplars of the merits of change. Their new venture draws on the wealth of international experience within the two teams and opens up new marketplaces around the globe.

I believe we will see more mergers of this kind, where similar but distinctive companies will seek to rationalize their resources and maximize their brand exposure to a common client base. Time will tell!

Change can affect us in many ways-ideally for the better, inevitably sometimes for the worse. One thing is certain: The people we see succeeding in the next millennium will be the ones who can accept and adapt to technological and socioeconomic progress. Be one of them.

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