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Hardship and Hope

Hardship and Hope

My last “Editor's Page” saluted veteran event companies celebrating milestone anniversaries this year, and I'm embarrassed I left out Mona Meretsky, CSEP, on 25 years heading COMCOR Event and Meeting Production in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A year-end editorial usually reflects on the highs and lows of the year. But for most of us, 2009 has been a lot of lows.

Special event business at hotels has been whipsawed by the AIG effect. Corporate fear of appearing to throw money around has created an Alice in Wonderland world where skittish companies cancel events, not only losing the payoff that face-to-face meetings provide but also jettisoning the dollars already committed to them. One planner I know salvaged her event after her company president asked her to cancel it by reissuing invitations with the word “resort” chopped off the property's name and stating the property was located in the slightly grittier city next door.

With rare exceptions, the big event rental companies we profile annually have had a rough year. With their revenue taking a beating, a few longtime fixtures on our list asked us, “Please, just call us back in 2010.”

This is an anniversary year for me, too. I've been with Special Events for 10 years, and have learned that people in this business tend to be both optimistic and resilient.

Only an optimist — and a dogged one at that — could look at an empty field and see its potential as the site for a spectacular wedding. Only the resilient can complete the installation when the truck gets stuck, the weather gets nasty and the client gets nastier.

So despite the bad news of 2009, many of the professionals we interviewed for this issue tell a story about facing adversity and staring it down.

Event producer Alison Silcoff this year faced what she calls the “greatest fundraising challenge in 16 years” of organizing the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Ball. To see how she turned out a high-spirited, high-grossing event, turn to page 11.

Our cover story heads into the eye of the storm — high-end hotels — to see how they are fighting back to make events make sense for their clients. Turn to page 28 to read more.

And rental companies see green shoots in the green movement. After all, what business is more eco-friendly than rental?

I'm inspired by these stories and hope you are, too.

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