“Ladies and gentlemen, the recession has left the building.”
At the risk of sounding insensitive to those people still out of work and/or struggling to keep their businesses afloat, the event industry is clearly no longer in recession. (I just knocked my wooden desk for all you superstitious folks who think I just jinxed it).
Everyone is crazy-busy right now. And I mean everyone. Literally, I kid you not, every single person I’ve spoken to in the last week can’t seem to catch their breath. People are jamming in every facet of our industry: corporate, social, non-profit . . . you name it.
Daniele Menache, Global Head of Event Marketing for Alliance Bernstein, is swamped. “You want a quote? My quote is I’m too busy to give you a quote! Seriously, between the actual work of booking conferences and all the year-end performance review for staff and 360, and holiday parties, I’m in the office for most of my 24 hrs!”
Mark Shearon, Executive VP of TBA Global, is reporting their best year ever. On top of mega events for Walmart, Samsung, and T.Mobile, they were just named agency of record for one of the world’s largest energy companies.
Cheryl Kahn Bracco, Director of Catering for the Glazier Group, owners of a dozen different restaurants and banquet venues, says she is the busiest she’s been since 2007. First Protocol reports that their London office is jamming, while their NY office just landed a huge new client. They too are working in overdrive.
Andrea Figman, former senior planner at American Express and now proprietor of her own firm Andrea Figman & Company, is “extremely busy these days. Some budgets seem to be opening up, and, where they are not, companies get creative by partnering with suppliers for funding or having some of their events sponsored.”
Morgan Connacher of Fourth Wall Events says, “we had the busiest October on record. Programs for several hundredpeople and several thousand people that all seem to have incredibly short lead times. RFPs for large and small programs flooded in our doors. I’m cautiously optimistic. Even with budgets coming back, the bottom line is still a huge concern.”
Welcome to capitalism. Two and a half years ago came the train wreck, and event activity ground to a virtual halt. Seemingly overnight, event-spend slipped out the back door while no one was looking, and into town rode the forces of the free market.
Suddenly, we had a lot less demand for event services, and way too much supply of planners and vendors. Economics 101: either we find a way to goose demand back up, or a lot of excess supply has to be squeezed out of the marketplace. And since our industry didn’t exactly get a chunk of the federal stimulus money (do we need a better Lobby in Washington or what?), it was the supply that had to go.
Fast forward to today, where the spigot for event spending has been slowly but steadily opening up again. However, with many in-house planning departments now 1/3 or even ½ their previous size, and with agencies and vendors having trimmed down too, the demand is now outstripping supply. And for the time being, people are not filling the gap with permanent hires, they’re just working harder, so everyone is busy and the freelance market is booming.
So we’re all very busy, but not necessarily very profitable. (And if you confuse the two, you do so at your own peril.) Why?
Right now, hiring, salaries, and fees have not increased much, but they will. The longer this “boomlet” runs, the greater everyone’s confidence will be to raise their planning fees, and hire more staff. Until then, enjoy the mad scramble to keep up with the work flow; we’ve come a long way from the thumb-twiddling idleness of two years ago.