With a roster of A list clients and an enviable body of work — events including Time magazine's 75th birthday and the 200th anniversary of the New York Stock Exchange — event and public relations professional George Trescher, founder of New York-based George Trescher Associates, offers a unique perspective on the role that special events will play in 2002.
Special Events Magazine: In light of Sept. 11 and the current economic climate, what is your business forecast for the special event industry in New York in the first six months of 2002?
George Trescher: At this point, the crystal ball is cloudy. I can't really call it; it could go either way. We had a very successful fall, despite the problems of the city. Every event that we had planned to do prior to Sept. 11 came to pass, except the one that was scheduled to happen that night, which was the opening of the fall season of the New York City Opera. That unfortunately had to be canceled. But they simply scheduled another performance and invited people who had taken tickets to come to that performance. And they hung on to all the money they'd raised.
Q: Why do you think you've seen no dip in business?
A: Most of our clients are in the not-for-profit field. Based on our history — and we've been in the business more than 30 years — not-for-profit organizations turn to benefits in times of stress and strain; they need events even more. Whether it's the Robin Hood Foundation with its huge party raising millions of dollars, or something small for the Municipal Art Society raising $700,000 to $800,000, those are the social events of the calendar that people keep and think about. So those things I think will continue, more important than ever, if things slow down as they are forecasted to do. Benefit events are not seen as frivolous.
Q: Has the mood since Sept. 11 changed how you present an event?
A: These parties are customarily black tie, and people have wondered about doing that; it has been refocused to business attire. Of course in the immediate days following Sept. 11, it really did seem inappropriate to get togged out in black tie and ball gowns. But that was a momentary thing that I think will disappear after the first of year. And that's because a certain festive, ceremonial quality that relates to formal dress is absent. It diminishes the impact of the event.
Q: Are the real challenges for special events in 2002 economic challenges or public relations challenges, that is, fear of appearing frivolous?
A: I think the biggest challenges that are real are economic. People conjure up these fears of appearing frivolous — that's silly. If you want to have a party, you want to have a good time. People have been dancing at balls during the night before battles for years, and it isn't going to stop. Nobody around is old enough to remember the Second World War except me, and that was a really gay time. Everybody had a ball. There was lots of love, and there was lots of romance, and there was lots of fun.
Q: What are you hearing from clients about how they want their events positioned in 2002? Do they want patriotic themes? Do they want to avoid the appearance of spending too much money?
A: With all this unemployment and changes in welfare policy, spending too much money is something to be avoided. It's always to be avoided — it's vulgar. I think sometimes we forget that.
Q: What advice do you give other event professionals in unsettled days such as these?
A: We should do this all the time, but in unsettled days as these are, a lean ship and trim sails are what you want to go with. You've got to look at how much staff you have that is marginal and how much is essential.
Q: What mistake do you see event planners make most often?
A: What I see always: over-expansion. It's hubris. You suddenly begin to read your own press notices, and believe them. It's one thing to read them — it's another thing to believe them!
George Trescher Associates can be reached at 212/685-0113.