Is the Market Over-Saturated?
“Uggh. Everyone’s an event planner now.” 20 year planner in Chicago.
“My event department got cut in half, and they’re giving some of my events to admins. Can you believe it? Admins!” 12 year corp. planner in NYC.
“Just lost a wedding client who’s hiring a friend (with no experience) to help her. She wants to hire me for day-of only.” 7 year wedding planner in Dallas.
“They’re like mushrooms. You go outside after it rains and it seems a dozen more planners have sprouted under a tree. They’re popping up everywhere.” 15 year event designer in LA.
Can we talk about this now? Is it heresy to say there are too many event planners out there? The quotes above were all given to me within the last month by frustrated, no, incredibly frustrated, event planners. They are pulling their hair out.
What I want to know, however, is why anyone is surprised. It seems like only yesterday when practically every planner I knew was complaining they were not getting enough recognition as professionals. They wanted to be taken more seriously. Well, they’re taken more seriously now.
Event planners appear, as professionals, in dozens of tv shows and movies. The number of colleges offering courses in event management grows every year. Trade organizations continue to develop best practices & industry standards. New conferences and seminars are developed every year. And, most importantly, it is now widely accepted that you need to have professionals manage social and corporate events. In short, everyone’s wishes have been granted.
Is it no surprise then, that all this advancement and publicity have attracted gazillions of people to enter the industry? This is the logical consequence of everything we all wanted, isn’t it? What did we think, that the industry would take giant strides forward but that we’d keep it all to ourselves?
Welcome to a maturing industry, and get used to it. Yes, our industry has grown, dramatically. It’s not necessarily that are more events out there, but that more of the events are looking for dedicated event pros to handle them. This is a good thing.
But we are also in an industry with no barriers to entry. That means anyone can jump in and call themselves an event planner. Get used to that too. No licenses required (like having to pass the bar before you can practice law). No equipment to buy. Just some creativity, good organizational skills, and a client.
Years ago, the PR profession didn’t exist. You had advertising, and that was it. It’s only in the last 40 years or so that a dedicated profession developed to mange the media. And now, it’s part of the landscape. Well, the event industry has just gone through the same evolution. And like PR, anyone can enter it, but not anyone can be good at it.
So complaining about all the planners “out there” is like trying to hold back the tide. Hey, you want someone to have a cocktail with and commiserate about all the new competition, you’ll have a lot of company. Count me in too, cause that’s a fun bitch-fest. But when you wake up the next morning, it’s time to go to work on identifying what it is that separates you from the newbies. (And by the way, we were all newbies once; let’s not get too full of ourselves.) And if you’re a newbie, get ready to explain why you deserve a client’s business over a more experienced planner. And it can’t just be that your price is lower, because there’s another newbie around the corner whose price will be lower than yours.
One of the smartest people in the NYC hospitality industry is Walter Rauscher, who was the Director of Catering at Tavern on the Green for many years (before moving on to Ark Restaurants). He’s someone I look up to, who’s not afraid to speak his mind. Many years ago when he was still at Tavern he said to me, “Back in the day I only had two competitors: the Plaza and the Waldorf. It didn’t matter what kind of food we all served, if you had a big event you had to go to one of us, and we all made a ton of money. Now, there’s a boatload of competition out there; libraries, museums, exclusive clubs; they’re all taking events. Would I love to turn back the clock? You bet. Do I waste a single minute complaining about it? No. We roll up our sleeves and my team goes to work”