Event Business

Event Business is Great—And How to Fix It

As a long time friend and colleague, I consider Lisa a valuable resource for information within the special events industry. I am thrilled she created this very relevant outline for the DesignDawgs community and it is an honor to share it with you. Warm regards – David Merrell

by Lisa Hurley

The good news: All our predictions point to a great year for special event business in 2016. The bad news: Sometimes good news brings its own set of headaches.

Every year, Penton Research—which is part of the parent company of Special Events magazine—conducts a comprehensive survey to gauge the future of the event industry. And the 2016 forecast is bright.

Some 82 percent of independent event professionals expect to stage the same number or more events in 2016 than they did in 2015, and that percentage rises to a whopping 89 percent for in-house event pros.

Worries about the economy have dipped to the lowest level in the last 10 years of the annual Special Events survey: Only 20 percent of in-house event pros list “an uncertain economy” as one of the greatest challenge in the new year, while the figure is 33 percent for independents.

Penton Research also takes a look at the event rental industry specifically and, again, this segment is predicting a strong 2016.

According to our rental industry study, a whopping 80 percent of respondents expect to handle more events in 2016 than they did last year. This is the most optimistic forecast in the last 11 years.

But even good days bring their own challenges, and many special event professionals I speak with are pointing to increased competition for qualified labor as a growing problem.

“Our growth continues to make it difficult for our recruiter to keep up with the demand for qualified labor,” notes Dan Hooks, CERP, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Party Reflections and member of the Special Events Advisory Board. “We are in an image business, and quality people are harder to find than ever before.” The tight labor market has prompted Party Reflections management to change the way it approaches filing open positions: “We are moving more towards a project-manager approach, instead of a team of drivers managing the projects,” Hooks says.

The event industry has a lucky charm in regard to labor, though–the industry is considered glamorous by many. (Remind yourself of this the next time you’re still at work, striking a party on what’s already been an 18-hour day.) And that fact alone helps attract a crop of enthusiastic new recruits. Some will have staying power and some will not, but it’s great to have this pipeline of new talent. The trick will be to ensure that you corral that enthusiasm with strong training and clear expectations.

Another challenge that event pros tell me they are facing right now are high client expectations. And that’s not hard to understand. Event budgets are climbing, and when clients see how superb an event with a healthy budget can be, they will of course ask for more of same.

That’s not in and of itself a bad thing, but when clients get carried away, your business relationship with them can end badly.

The same strategies for getting the most out of staffers also apply here. Make sure your clients understand what their budget will buy—and what it won’t. The rush of enthusiasm from our clients at the start of the event process can be infectious, but your event expertise is essential here to keep the event on an even keel.

Here’s hoping you have a productive and profitable year.

*Featured image by Red Door Pictures for AOO Events.

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Lisa Hurley is editor of Special Events, a sister publication of the MeetingsNet group and the “official and premier magazine of the special events industry in North America,” according to the International Special Events Society. She is based in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Photo of Lisa by Nadine Froger.

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