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Slowly Healing Economy Demands New Skills from Event Professionals

I track my family's finances in Quicken, and charting my own little economy pretty well mirrors what's happening on a grand scale. My portfolio will show some gains that make me feel brilliant and optimistic. Then the stock market will get spooked, I'll watch those gains evaporate, and I reach for my “50 Frugal Recipes to Feed the Family” cookbook.

The professionals in this issue are already addressing this problem: how to develop effective events in an economy that is — slowly — beginning to heal.

Event pros who specialize in entertainment are particularly adept at walking this tightrope. The entertainment portion of special events has been under fire lately in light of the flap over excessive spending by the U.S. General Services Administration on a conference in Las Vegas. For some reason that escapes me, an element of the conference often singled out for criticism is the fact that the coordinators hired a mind reader as entertainment.

The mind reader can't have been a big expense. Instead, the criticism suggests that event entertainment itself is purely a frill. This is one more piece of evidence to me that the whole GSA uproar isn't about the folly of staging special events. It's about the folly of failing to hire event professionals who know how to do it right.

In our “On Trend” feature, seven leading entertainment producers explain how entertainment should be done, from what acts communicate a message best to how to reach the rising influx of international guests. And even after the bad old days of the AIG debacle and today's GSA brouhaha, Debbie Meyers, CSEP, says what apparently still needs to be said: Vendors who deal with taxpayer money need to “behave.” See page 30 for more.

This issue also brings news of an exciting new program that is honing the management skills of event pros who are already successful. Even after 11 years as a business owner, Carolyn Dempsey-Arcuri has charted a new course for success thanks to her work in the Goldman Sachs “10,000 Small Businesses” program. Find out what she did and how she did it on page 25.

Our cover story is one of my favorites every year — a snapshot of 25 of the biggest caterers in business today. Event milestones such as the U.S. presidential election and the Olympics in London should help heat up business; read more starting on page 21.

It's unlikely we will get a roaring recovery to lift all boats. Instead, we need to be smart sailors to ride the rising tide.

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