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Special Events

Big Business

IT SEEMS THAT everyone in the special event industry is turning into a jack-of-all-trades.

The caterer is now a planner and designer. Rental companies offer full event coordination. The entertainment agencies do everything. Conglomerates are forming every day. Soon, the big fish will eat the entire school. While this is nothing new, there is a more professional attitude today that has me wondering: Is this trend creating more competition, or is it raising the bar of expertise?

In the '80s, when everyone jumped on the special event bandwagon, the level of professionalism was low. The woman who arranged a dinner for her husband's law firm could call herself a full-fledged planner. If she adorned the table with flowers, a designer was born. If she went so far as to hire a piano player, watch out, Diana Ross-a new talent agent was on the scene. These scenarios, no matter how humorous today, were not considered funny then, especially not to the established planners, designers and entertainment firms.

Aside from forcing experienced professionals to lower their prices in order to compete, not all these new companies took professionalism or business ethics to heart. Some of their practices put a damper on the industry. But that was nothing compared with the recession. Corporate downsizing left many in-house event professionals out on the street, vying for business.

But the downsizing also allowed corporations to open their doors to working with a variety of professionals. Now, many corporations have built their in-house departments back up, while others continue to hire services on a free-lance basis. As I mentioned before, today there is a wide variety of services on the market and a large amount of cross-over between specialties.

This brief history of the event industry teaches us that no matter what goes on in today's market, history repeats itself. And, in the end, the true professional will win.

Competition will come and go. What we call ourselves and what services we offer will change with the trends. The question is, is it competition we are fighting, or are we fighting change? In many cases, mergers and franchise opportunities in our field eventually raise the bar of excellence within this industry.

Unlike the '80s, competition today is professional. While that might be harder on business, it is better for the consumer and, thereby, better for the special event industry as a whole. The days of temperamental designers and arrogant entertainment agents are coming to an end. Providing professional service has now become the main goal, and outside elements, such as technology, are helping us provide it better and faster.

Accepting competition is a challenge for me to better myself and my staff. And the more we can do so with open arms and the right attitude, the more we will take part in raising the bar on our own excellence, as well as that of the industry on which we will continue to rely for our living.

And what is the right attitude to adopt? A gentleman on my staff named Andy Glanz best illustrates this. He is one of the most easygoing people I have ever known. When I asked him why he's so nice, he replied, "It just makes life easier." What true words! That is raising the bar on attitude.

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