By a wide margin, concern about the economy is the No. 1 challenge facing special event professionals in the next 12 months. The finding comes from a survey conducted in late August of more than 1,400 Special Events readers.
Worries about the sluggish economy—and fears that the situation could get even worse—dominate reader responses.
YIKES, WHAT'S NEXT?
"The economy is affecting clients' decision-making," one respondent says. Adds another, "The economy is making clients hold back on spending."
The uncertainty over where the economy is heading has some respondents at a loss over what to do next. As one respondent puts it, "My challenge is not knowing how the economy will impact our industry and my business."
"One month, things are looking up and the next month, it changes," says another. "I don't think surveys 'for the year' are relevant because it depends on what month someone is hit with the question."
The challenge runs across the board, from corporate to social to nonprofit events. Says one fundraiser, "We are persuading patrons that prioritizing their financial expenditures for our events is their most justifiable decision."
BUDGETS LOW, COSTS HIGH
Coming in second on the list of challenges is the dilemma that even as budgets for events stay tight, costs are beginning to rise.
One respondent sees "rising food prices, fuel prices and labor costs, all in a brutal economy."
Another respondent points to rising costs for insurance, especially workers compensation coverage. And even as costs go up, "I have concerns about the quality" of goods and services, the event pro says.
One factor keeping the lid on budgets is tough competition throughout the industry.
The competition "is lowballing prices to get the business because they are desperate," says one respondent. It has been tough "to get buyers to go back to quality as opposed to pricing."
One rental operator notes, "We are being challenged by online companies who undercut our prices, and by customers who find pricing online and then want to negotiate our prices."
WE DO IT ALL
A planner says the big challenge is "competing against vendors that offer the same services I do; local caterers are now offering event planning services."
Another planner grumbles about the "one-stop shops—the vendors who want to cut out the planners."
The influx of event industry newbies remains a headache. One respondent bemoans newbies "muddying the market with cheap prices and subpar service and calling it 'fabulous.'"
Another pro blasts "planners who do this as a hobby and not as a business and undercut the professionals."
KEEPING THE GOOD ONES
Paradoxically, even with high unemployment, many respondents say that finding and keeping good employees is a major challenge.
"Employing professional staff members with a good work ethic" is a big concern, says one respondent.
"We are on a growth curve and just hit Year 5," says another. "I'm trying to find a great, creative, outstanding, amazing, committed, loyal sales manager to be 'me' when I can't be there."
Note: Special Events will begin compiling statistics for its event planner and rental industry forecasts for 2012 soon; if you receive a questionnaire, please complete it. Your replies are strictly anonymous.
Photo by iStockphoto.com / © Sawayasu Tsuji