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A Four Billion Dollar Industry, Reintroduced: The Strategic Value of Events

It’s time to reexamine how the events industry is explained, understood and approached in conversation. The glamorizing of the event planner in mainstream media has left out the importance of the strategic thinking needed by event professionals to be successful.

This is the first of a three part blog series, which will focus on an updated perspective to explaining the complex world of the events industry. The series will combine event and meeting planners, designers and managers into one term: the event professional.

The traditional means of categorizing events as social or corporate is antiquated. Social events and meetings can have business components, and business events can have social components. Therefore, the focus should be on how events are positioned either as a tool for revenue generation or as an expense platform where raising awareness, celebration or education is the primary focus with the possibility of revenue generation as a secondary or long-term goal (see Figure 1).

According to a study conducted by IBISWorld US, the event professional’s industry generated $4.3 billion in revenue in 2014, which was a 6% increase over the previous year with 2015 trending to generate $4.5 billion. The industry caters to both corporate and individual clients, each of which demands different services and is affected by divergent factors. Therefore, how one describes the very nature of events is determined primarily by how the client wants to use events positioned for fulfilling their needs. Throughout my years working within the events industry, the work performed differed depending on the organization but the tool that was used was the same: events.

Working as a promotions manager for an agency, my primary responsibility was to align my Fortune 500 client’s product(s) to the market by identifying activities that could bring the product into the hands of the consumer at events (e.g. golf tournaments, art shows, charity events, etc.). It required many hours of evaluating the impact of that event by examining proposals, speaking with the event organizers and selling the risk/reward to the client. The client needed a solid business case for me to expense dollars for an event. The measurement was return on investment (ROI) and I better make it at least 3x more in value than what they were paying for, which was much easier said than done because the results may not be revealed for a long time post-event.

Tip: Event professionals, if your event requires financial and/or in-kind resources, make sure that your proposal is customized to the needs of your fellow event professional. Help them out by giving them all the information to make a case for them to invest in your event.

Figure 1. Event Profession Approach

While the expense side of the events industry proved to be highly influential (externally) and highly disappointing at the same time due to all of the rejections you have to give other event pros, transitioning over to the revenue generating side served to be highly influential (internally) and highly results-driven which was very rewarding. As a sales manager for a hospitality organization, my responsibility was to generate revenue for the company using events (e.g. incentive, celebrations, life cycle, etc.). It required primarily face to face interaction where both individuals and organizations trusted that the event produced would be planned and executed based of their perception of success, which varied according to each guest. The need to meet the organization’s sales goals monthly was explicit from my employer but the satisfaction perception by the guests was only explicit after receiving their post-event surveys which were both revealed relatively quickly i.e. in the short term. The flexibility of serving two stakeholders simultaneously required a more complex set of interpersonal skills.

Tip: Event professionals, if you are using events as a tool to generate revenue for your organization, remember your professionalism will be tested by your interaction with your company and with your guests. But the immediate feedback and rewards are motivators to keep you going.

By re-examining the events industry using a different approach may help explain the strategic value Eventprofs bring to the entire business community. In my second blog, the expense approach is discussed more in-depth.

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