Last week, Special Events' "Eventline" looked at how in-house corporate special event professionals are dealing with the new day in special events, where the need to avoid appearing "lavish" can be a bigger priority than staging an effective event.

This week, independent event professionals discuss how their world has changed since the economy crashed. Overall, clients expect more work in less time.

TIGHT BUDGETS, TOUGH DEMANDS

Tight corporate purse strings have put incredible pressure on independents. Veteran event producer Andrea Michaels, head of Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Extraordinary Events, notes that clients expect plenty during the proposal process these days.

"They expect fully fleshed-out proposals delivered with very little or sometimes no information; they expect that proposals that take a great deal of research and preparation can be turned around in too little time--sometimes in a matter of hours," she explains. "They expect that you can be accurate as well as creative, but will not allow the time or money for a site inspection. And then they expect that they can take whatever time they need--or want--to review the proposal, ask for renderings, floor plans, revisions, etc., with no guarantee that you have the job. And finally, they expect that you will produce the job without a deposit--because it’s now too late to generate payment--and oftentimes ask you to wait for 30 to 90 days for payment. Want me to go on?"

Mark Baltazar, CEO and managing partner of New York-based Broadstreet, notes that many categories of special events have fallen by the wayside nowadays. "Programs that cannot be tied directly to revenue are gone," he says. Overall, event programs are "smaller, scaled-down and business-focused," he says.

PARTNER IN PLANNING

Nancy Shaffer, owner of Washington-based Bravo Events by Design, says the change in the business climate means her company has changed the way it does business.

"This challenging time has presented us with an opportunity to redefine how we present ourselves to our clients," she says. "We now have them seeing us as strategic partners who need to be involved earlier in the planning process, and we encourage them to include us at the table with the marketing department, C-Level executives and other decision-makers."

"Before 2008, it was more the exception than the rule that as an industry we were asked to participate in the strategic planning," Shaffer adds. "We were the ones who made an event exciting, tasty, visual, engaging and logistically effective. Now Bravo is asked more often to participate in the process before the decision to hold a live experience is made. We know that we are integral to the success of an event and the earlier we are involved in the process, the better the impact. We are not just 'party planners.' We are the producers of the live elements of a company’s marketing and communications campaign."

BETTER BUSINESS?

When will things improve?

Baltazar expects some growth this year and next. "But that won’t be certain until the fall," he notes. "If the economy is growing, and the recession is a V instead of a W, there will be more likelihood that planners will have more confidence to increase their budgets for 2011."

For the full story, see the May-June issue of Special Events.

Photo by iStockphoto.com / © Andrzej Wojcicki

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