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Special Events

Special Event Industry Shows Increasing Professionalism

Welcome to 2008, and welcome to our newest crop of Gala Award nominees. Turn to page 29 and start enjoying the best work from around the world in everything from business events to bar mitzvahs. You can join me to honor the nominees and applaud the winners at the Gala Awards Ceremony, Jan. 18 at The Special Event in Atlanta.

Also in this issue is our annual event industry forecast. I'm the one person in the office who actually likes to proofread the graphs in this story. The numbers aren't minor details — they document the transformations in our industry.

As anyone who has tried to increase sales or lose that last five pounds knows, the only way to tell if you are making true progress is to measure your efforts. Our studies do that, and this one — our survey of the new year forecasts by in-house and independent event planners — presents those predictions going all the way back to 2003. This year's study shows how the event profession has grown up.

For example, while “shorter lead times” remains one of the top headaches for both in-house and independent planners, concern about this challenge has fallen over the last five years — by 4 percentage points for independent planners and a full 11 percentage points for in-house planners. What this tells me is that event pros in both arenas have adapted to the new reality in special events: Short lead times are not a major hurdle but a simple fact of doing business.

A brighter bit of news is what the study tells us about the issue of dealing with procurement. I can remember just a few years ago when this was the hot topic at event conferences. Independent pros were searching for some magical way to decode the mysterious language of the procurement department, seen as the “obstacle” between them and their client partners.

But those days are gone. “Dealing with my company's procurement department” ranks only seventh on our list of eight challenges for in-house pros. For independents, concern about dealing with the client's procurement department has fallen steadily since 2005, from being listed as a major challenge by 17 percent of our respondents that year to only 10 percent today.

These statistics show us that some of the professional headaches we face are really just growing pains, as the event industry has evolved from passion to profession.

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