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Special Events

Editor's Page: Facing the Future

NOW OUR LIVES HAVE a new defining moment: before the morning of Sept. 11 and after.

As I write this, the horrific attacks took place only three weeks ago. But the way we think about how we live will be different for years to come.

The articles in our October issue — and even many in our November issue — were completed before Sept. 11. The challenges facing the special event industry today are quite different from the challenges we addressed in those editions. Today, we operate in a climate stained with anxiety and fear. To some, the fun of special events may now seem frivolous, the high spirits, hollow. Indeed, for many special event professionals, the challenge facing us is justifying what we do.

So what meaning do special events have for us now? How do we go forward with them?

According to a poll conducted by Special Events Magazine two weeks after the attacks, event professionals reported that 20 percent of their business through the end of the year had been postponed and another 10 percent canceled outright. By a large margin, corporate events were the hardest hit, representing 80 percent of postponed/canceled business.

Clearly, disasters are less likely to sidetrack social events such as weddings; in fact, they may encourage them. Four years ago, the sudden death of my darling mother prompted my now-husband and me to stop dating and set a wedding date. He and I faced a reality we'd all prefer to ignore: None of us owns the future. And so the time to bring those we value close to us is now.

It is this realization that gives special events meaning in today's business world, too. Exactly one week before the Sept. 11 disaster, I attended a NACE dinner honoring John J. Daly Jr. Some 200 industry professionals were on hand to salute John. As I drove home that night — and many, many times since that night — I felt grateful that I had gone. It was an honor to spend time with such talented, generous, dedicated people.

The special events we create for business guests will be different now. Destinations may change, decor may change. Celebrations may no longer be in order. But events that bring us together to show our appreciation for one another clearly are in order. We need such special events. They shore up our souls.

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