Is something better beginning? In the annual survey conducted by Penton Media's Research Department, a third of in-house special event professionals and a whopping 48 percent of independents say they expect to produce more events this year than they did in 2009.
But this brightening outlook comes after a crippling falloff in business for virtually all event professionals over the last two years, with the pain especially keen in the corporate sector.
When asked what they will do to meet the new year's challenges, members of the Special Events Advisory Board plan to use the same recipe they did last year: Work lean, work fast, and top it all off with a big helping of flexibility.
Caterer Greg Casella, CPCE, NACE president and head of San Jose, Calif.-based Catered Too, keeps his antenna up for new opportunities “to add to our businesses, merge or buy out others wanting to move in a new direction,” he says. (Read more from Casella in “The Last Word,” on page 58.)
Like Casella, Gary Jones, CSEP, doesn't depend on just one business. His San Antonio-based portfolio includes Gary Jones Presents — a production company — along with a DMC, an off-premise catering company, and an alcohol beverage service operation.
Adaptability is vital, Jones says. “Even though we used to be close to the top of the food chain, so to speak, we are now closer to the bottom,” he explains candidly. “So we are trying to position ourselves to become more valuable team members to those power players who have been around longer. Our pricing structure might be more relaxed for other planners, to encourage them to use us more.”
San Francisco-based wedding planner Joyce Scardina Becker, CMP, founder of Events of Distinction, works in the supposedly recession-proof world of social events. But she too feels the pressure to lower prices.
“One of the challenges for the wedding market is that brides and grooms are blast-e-mailing a multitude of wedding planners and requesting a list of services and costs,” she notes. “So the challenge for the experienced wedding planner is to educate the client that experience, credentials and awards do matter.” Scardina Becker plans to keep her own profile high by promoting her book, Countdown to Your Perfect Wedding, and championing the Wedding Industry Professionals Association, which she helped found to uphold professionalism in wedding planning.
YES AND NO
With events few and far between, it's tempting to say “yes” to any job. But that can be a mistake.
Leslee Bell, founder of Toronto-based Decor & More, is eager to explore new markets, but she won't take every event that comes along. “Some of them don't make sense in a downturned economy and do drastically affect the bottom line,” she says. “Every event is not a good event.”
Along the same line, it's important not to cut operations so deeply that opportunities slip by.
Steve Welsh, creative director with Atlanta-based A Legendary Event, notes that in November, the firm honored its longtime practice of donating an elegant tabletop to a local charity. This year, however, the table caught the eye of a wedding magazine editor, who asked the team not only to create the table for the magazine's cover but to be part of filming for a reality show on cable network HGTV.
“If we had stopped donating our services to charitable causes like a lot of our competitors, then we would not have been given this great opportunity,” Welsh says.
Although it's easy to take the recession as a personal vote of no confidence, Bell urges against this.
“We need to look at this recession for what it is,” she says, “a chance to redefine, reduce, reinvent and not feel guilty or beat ourselves up over it. We didn't create it, but we need to be creative to get through it.”
A LEGENDARY EVENT
DECOR & MORE
EVENTS OF DISTINCTION
GARY JONES PRESENTS …
WEDDING INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATION