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Special Events

Economy Gives Event Industry Trial by Fire

Half of all in-house event professionals and nearly 60 percent of independents predict they will stage more events this year than in 2007. The forecast from event rental operators is even rosier: Seventy-nine percent foresee they will be busier with special events in 2008 than in 2007.

These are wonderful forecasts. Pity they are forecasts we gathered one year ago and no longer reflect the current state of special events.

Most event pros I speak with had a good first half in 2008. But the second half of the year has brought eye-popping financial news. Rock-solid business institutions have crumbled, and stock markets worldwide have taken investors both big and small on a heart-stopping roller coaster ride. Worry has led virtually every consumer with a pulse to rein in spending, which has led to layoffs, which has further reined in spending, and so on.

As this issue goes to press, we're watching to see how hard a hit the corporate holiday party business will take. Half of respondents to a Special Events online poll early last month said their holiday party business will be off by more than 40 percent this year compared with 2007.

If there is a bright spot at year-end, it's the proactive moves I see event pros making to boost business. The last two weeks have brought a wave of e-mail promotional blasts to my inbox, with independents offering tips on how to stage a holiday party that's thrilling yet thrifty.

The other bright spot — although you need to be over 40 to recognize it — is that the economic pendulum is swinging once again. Down markets always turn up at some point, but now is when you need to show what you're made of.

Ronnie Davis, head of Ronnie Davis Productions, the special event division of New York-based Great Performances, takes the long view. “This is the fourth time we've been through this in the last 18 years,” he says. “People still need to eat; companies still need to keep up morale. We have to sell smarter and be more creative.”

Cher Przelomski, head of Planning Factory International in Wilmington, Del., says, “I believe always in the middle of the chaos lies every opportunity. It's up to us to be creative enough to find it.”

In California, we've just ended another week of terrifying wildfires — the same wildfires that plague us virtually every year. They stop us in our tracks and scare us to our souls. But we pick up, rebuild and go on.

You need to be smart and creative. I hope this issue — and every issue of Special Events — brings you smart, creative ideas that ensure your success.

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