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Event Industry Looking for Glimmers of Hope in Tough Economy

Frankly, I didn't know what to expect at The Special Event this year.

Since last fall, the economic news has been so dismal (I've stopped opening my retirement account statements — have you?) that I wasn't sure how well the show would attract attendees.

As it turns out, no one needed to worry. Not only was the turnout strong at the January event — more than 8,700 — but the show floor was a sellout, and education sessions and events drew enthusiastic crowds. In case you couldn't make it — and to relive the excitement if you did — we present our annual show wrap, starting on page 20.

Part of what has been especially unnerving about this economic slowdown is that it's bigger and badder than many of us have ever seen before.

Further, this downturn has a strange perception problem in play. Blame it on what's now dubbed the “AIG effect,” but the appearance of spending — even if you have both the money to spend and a good reason to spend it — meets with criticism.

Not surprisingly, just over half of the 800-plus event professionals we polled last month say they now expect to stage fewer events in 2009 than in 2008, and 43 percent say their event revenue will decrease “somewhat” or “substantially” this year. But in the same survey, 24 percent of respond-ents say they expect to stage the same number of events this year as they did last, and 11 percent say they expect to stage even more. Nearly 20 percent say their revenue will increase this year.

A well-placed industry observer told me recently that he knows of event professionals who are doing well yet — in light of those who aren't — feel too guilty to talk about it.

If your event career is going well, that's good news. But if you have hit rough seas, I share the poignant remarks made by Sean DeFreitas, founder of Designs by Sean in Dania, Fla., when he took the stage at The Special Event to accept his Gala Awards.

“We look at brush fires as bad things because they kill all the trees and vegetation,” he said. “But they enrich the soil and bring new growth that is better and stronger. Hopefully the same thing will happen within our industry — we will grow back better and stronger and flourish even more than we did before.”

Here's to your better, stronger future.

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