Whether it's due to better news from the stock market or less-than-miserable unemployment reports, some 41 percent of special event professionals polled this week by Special Events predict that the economy will start to recover this year. This is a sharp increase from a March Special Events poll, where only 7 percent of respondents expected a turnaround to start this year.

In the latest poll, 32 percent of respondents expect the recovery to begin in 2010, and 20 percent expect it to begin in 2011 or later. Seven percent of respondents say they do not know when the recovery will begin.

This contrasts with the 52 percent of respondents in the March poll who expected the recovery to begin in 2010, and the 30 percent who expected to see recovery in 2011 or later.

ORDERS STILL COMING

"Three months ago you had to scour the papers for a week to find one even slightly optimistic article about the economy," notes Jack Luft, head of Hall's Rental of Niles, Ill. "I think if we take things by quarter, we will look back every three months and realize that things have become better, just not in a dramatic manner. Orders are being placed even more last-minute than before, but the important thing is they are being placed, even if budgets and guest counts are smaller."

Howard Givner, head of New York-based Paint the Town Red, also expects a turnaround to start at the end of this year, but cautions that the event industry won't reap the rewards till later.

"Generally speaking, the event industry tends to lag a good six months behind the overall economy," he explains. "One, events take a while to plan, so when the economy sours, you may see companies finish out events already in the works, but not launch any new programs. Two, events already on the books usually incur sizable cancellation fees, often making it economically unattractive to cancel, lose money, and have no event, compared to paying a little more and getting the event. They may scale the event back, but it usually does take place once it's in the works. As a result, I know of many industry vendors who had decent fourth quarters in 2008, despite the fact that that was during the eye of the economic storm, in large part because those events were already on the books, contracted during a period when the economy was in better shape. "

Coming next, Eventline will cover top strategies event professionals are using to stay afloat in tough times.

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