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Editor's Page: Trumping the Trends

A news story in the Los Angeles Times from last April notes that guests at the 2000 Internet World Trade show enjoyed “the most lavish celebrations venture capital money can buy.”

Fast forward a year: The Wall Street Journal quotes a study predicting that 80 percent of the remaining dot-com companies in the San Francisco Bay area will collapse in the next year.

How can we make sense of such wide, wild swings? How can we chart a sensible course for our businesses?

Step One is separating the headlines from the hard truths. Despite the meltdown in the stock market, the market that matters is the market you do business in — what part of the world and what part of the economy.

Event pros I spoke with for this column report widely divergent results for the first quarter. Despite the talk, “we've seen no falloff,” one wedding planner in Chicago says. A major New York party rental firm says sales are “hitting expectations.” A party rental firm in Florida credits healthy local tourism for first-quarter numbers “48 percent higher than 2000.”

But that's not true everywhere. Two Los Angeles caterers are bracing themselves for fallout from the writers' strike. In the heart of Silicon Valley, an event pro says her “worst suspicions” about the dot-economy are coming true.

And that brings us to Step Two: Adapt to the new reality. If the market sector you serve is skittish, look at new markets. If a splashy celebration hits the wrong note, then develop low-key morale-booster events.

Event planner Howard Givner has eight great tips for vaccinating your business against the recession blues.

I was struck by the interview I had with Sean Driscoll of top-flight caterer Glorious Food in New York. His firm has been at the top of its game for 30 years, enough time to roll through the ups and downs of many business cycles.

The secret of his success? Pay attention to what the client wants and deliver, deliver, deliver.

His is a very straightforward approach to business. And it's the hallmark of the successful event professional who is in it for the long haul.

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