WE WEREN'T SURE what to expect when we launched our Corporate Event Marketplace study three months ago. The economy that started souring last summer followed by the tragedies of 9/11 put a chill on corporate special events. But in the face of ups and downs in the stock market, our corporate event planners are bullish on the future of special events.
For example, 70 percent of our respondents say they will stage the same number of events this year as they do in a typical year. Only 7 percent say they will stage fewer events in 2003, with nearly 65 percent saying they will stage the same number next year as this year and a healthy 28 percent planning to stage an even greater number.
And those events will have solid budgets behind them. Some 37 percent of respondents say their corporation's budget allocation for special events in 2003 will be up over 2002 levels. Of these, nearly 10 percent expect their 2003 budget to be from 6 percent to 10 percent bigger than in 2002. Almost 40 percent will work with the same budget next year as this, and just over 10 percent expect their event budget to be cut next year.
In terms of hard dollars being spent, more than 42 percent are predicting greater expenditures for special events in 2003 over 2002, while nearly 40 percent say they will spend the same amount. Turn to page 23 to see all the numbers.
It's one thing to quantify budgets and expenditures, quite another to determine how those funds pay off. But corporate event professionals are certainly trying. When we asked if they attempt to measure the Return On Investment (ROI) of their events, nearly two-thirds said they already did so or were considering it. When we asked what tools they use, we got a wide range of responses, from tracking sales data to checking for repeat winners at incentive events.
But special events are so much more than graphs plotted for a presentation. Effective special events engage both the head and the heart; that's part of their power. And so measuring their effectiveness is both a science and an art. One respondent put the challenge well: “Yes, we measure ROI, but it's extremely difficult. Marketing to clients — both new and existing — is a wooing process that when done well takes time, patience and money.” Our data shows that corporate event professionals are ready to commit all three.