The event planning, conference and conventions industry – OK the entire hospitality industry in general – is always one of the hardest hit in the event of an international crisis or an economic downturn. Let’s just take a quick trip down ‘memory lane” – the 21st century SO FAR – terrorist attacks in some of the world’s major tourist/convention destinations, disease – who can forget SARS and SARS II (the sequel), escalating political unrest, armed conflict, all out war and one very impressive financial meltdown have let to social and economic uncertainty across the globe. Either people are afraid to travel or they can no longer afford to travel. But…..
…..Things are Looking Up For Event Planning
So while the 21st century has not been a stellar one for the event planning industry there is a silver lining to this particular cloud. Companies and individuals are starting to get out there again – and we’re seeing an increase in activity in the meetings and conventions industry. According to Tyler Davidson of “Meeting Focus” – “Things are Looking Up”.
Meeting Focus surveyed 700 meeting and event planners and event planning companies in the fall of 2010 and the results are looking very positive. The industry in general appears to be more optimistic. The convention, meeting and event planning industry has been hit with everything including the kitchen sink (think really really really bad storms) and we’re still here.
It’s now up to the people in the event planning industry to get back out there and pick up where we left off at the end of the 1990’s. But things have changed and to succeed meeting and event planners are going to have to adapt.
Perhaps the biggest change facing the traditional meeting and event planning companies is in the area of technology. Clients – whether they be companies or individuals – have access to much more information than they did even fifteen years ago. In many cases potential clients have started to by-pass the traditional route (contacting the local meeting planning or destination management companies to source suppliers and venues) and go directly to the suppliers via the web. Just as traditional travel agencies have had to adjust to remain relevant in the tourism industry, so too must those of us in the event planning industry.
So how do “traditional” event planning companies compete? It’s all about relationships.
Build New Relationships and Strengthen the Old Ones
With potential clients going straight to the suppliers, event and meeting planning companies have to expand the range of services in order to provide added value. It is easy for an out-of-town client go “google” in search of restaurants but there is only so much information a website will give them. Creative event planning requires that you develop relationships with each client. Communicate, be responsive to each client’s needs and follow through. Once you gain their confidence and they trust in your ability to exceed their expectations they will come back to you time and time again.
Just as importantly, strengthen relationships with and knowledge of the suppliers in your area. Industry suppliers have been hit hard and they are now, more than ever, ready and willing to partner with reputable meeting and event planning companies for the long term. Get to know the important little details – what that venue can and cannot actually offer to a prospective client.
The best event planning companies walk a fine line – developing relationships with a variety of suppliers, each with something different to offer potential clients – without alienating one supplier by recommending another. So it is important to develop and nurture relationships with a wide range of vendors – ie: three or four different seafood restaurants – each with something a bit different – from price points to location to seating capacity.
What other event planning services can you offer clients who don’t necessarily need you to find their venues and suppliers anymore?
- Provide on-site supervision of the event in that venue that the client found without your input.
- Meet and greet your client’s delegates, accompanying delegates to ensure the smooth transition from airport to hotel and hotel to venue.
- Find your client the things that are really hard to find – local delicacies from the small, family owned shops, unique, local entertainment – think street performers and buskers – people who the client can’t find on the web.
So it appears that we are experienced in the event planning industry. We may have well and truly weathered the storms of the early 21st century but if we are to succeed and remain relevant we have to be constantly preparing for the inevitable stormy weather that lies ahead.