Are Things Looking Up in the Events Industry?
With “austerity” the buzzword used to describe the general approach of cost-cutting across business and the public sector, you might think that events would be the first to go when cash-strapped organisations were looking for savings.
It certainly appears that over recent years there has been a scaling back of the more lavish elements once associated with corporate functions – with the exception of those events, like the London Olympics, planned before the crunch. Portable casinos, fun fairs, string quartets, hiring well-known celebrities as MCs and guest speakers, photo booths where guests can take silly pictures of themselves in their party finery … all aspects of events that must have been labelled ‘nice-to-have’ but not necessarily ‘must-have’, looked as though they were for the chop.
Effects of the Recession on Major Events
Event organisers have typically been working with reduced budgets as clients aim to have equally enjoyable events but for a smaller spend; they want the same ‘wow factor’ but perhaps without the same level of lavishness as in heady pre-recession days.
But it seems that actually cancelling events hasn’t generally been an option. Businesses have perhaps realised that a difficult economy makes it even more important to put on a brave public face. So they have continued to hold those events that are opportunities for training and rewarding staff , as well as for networking, marketing and entertaining customers. And things seem to be starting to look up in the events management industry after the recession …
Here we spoke to two businesses that depend on corporate – and to a lesser extent, personal – events for their bread and butter. How have the last few years been for them? Do they see a rosy future?
The Event Production Company
“The recession has had a huge effect on our business,” says Amanda Murray, event director at Cheam, Surrey-based event production house Capitol House Productions, which produces live events, award ceremonies and conferences. She says the main change has been that the same events are held but with lower budgets.
“Initially it was the extras that got cut: entertainment, bands, chocolate fountains, goody bags etc. Then clients asked for less expensive hosts. Finally, as guest numbers fell, the production budget was cut.”
However, says Murray, clients still want the same standard of event despite the reduced budgets. For the event organiser this means that profit margins are squeezed and it calls for a more creative approach in terms of thinking up ways to offer the same for less – not an easy challenge.
The Fancy Dress Hire Company
There have been similar trends in private and smaller corporate events, according to Kate Moore, owner of Jolly Jesters, a fancy dress hire and retail business in Swanwick, Derbyshire. She says that trends in demand for costumes and party accessories are a good barometer of what’s going on in the wider event world.
But she agrees with Amanda Murray that despite their lower spend, clients still want to be sure of generating “an event where people have a fantastic time”. This can mean that the budget is infeasibly low, says Moore. “Customers usually start out with a much lower budget than is feasible for their high expectations, so the initial challenge is to source the components to fit the brief. The internet means that clients are able to shop around more than ever before, and price seems to be the most important factor in the first instance.”
This means that, given an attractive price, clients then base their decisions on customer service. “If a company has the edge on offering a friendly and efficient service, this will tip the balance,” says Moore.
Are things getting better, post-recession?
Are things starting to look up? Murray thinks so. “Budgets are improving, new events are being launched. I think the industry is improving; reading the industry press there appears to be a lot more recruitment ads. There is a feeling that there may be light at the end of the tunnel – but I think not for another 12 months.”
Kate Moore agrees: “Things are definitely picking up now that it’s easier to justify splashing out on having a bit of fun after all the belt-tightening. At costume sales/hire level, things are definitely improving after a dodgy year or two, but again it’s the small spend.”
Over To You …
What do you think about the fortunes of the Events Industry? Do you agree that an upturn in the events industry is a clear sign that we are moving out of recession? Or do we always need to spend on events, no matter what the economic climate?