Posts Tagged ‘Economy RESET’



March 23, 2010

Over the last 15 months, I have continued to be puzzled about what seems to be a dichotomy inherent in this recession we are all moving through.

Early in 2008, I tried to counter the sad faces at my-then place of employment with facts to support that with some innovative positioning, one could weather the downturn, grow as a company and increase on the other side of the schism with increased market share. With a flicker of hope, we then authored a white paper – “Do or Die” which you most likely can still find posted on that company’s website. Nevertheless, within a month or two, survival of that employer meant lay-offs, re-orgs, and a start-over marketing story.

And yet, as one of those displaced workers, I started hearing within a week of my departure of new opportunities in our marketplace and would I be interested in helping with this or that project. So as I continued my job search, I free-lanced where I could, and survived quite well in this economy– without a company, website, marketing plan or even a business card – after I had been out of circulation as an independent event designer and producer for about three years.

I’ve previously shared my experience of a small event that went viral in July 2009, and the corporate anniversary last September with a long-time client whose budget was cut 50%; and yet we produced the best customer event to date.

All around me, the meetings and event industry was hit hard. Industry trade publications seemed to write about nothing else; every industry discussion focused on how to cut costs to retain clients; The Special Event Conference and Show lost exhibitors and attendees; and even a recent ISES chapter meeting report on the State of the Industry survey was bleak, with reports of planner vs. vendor discussions on how to best lower client budgets. The message of nothing left to give was heard loud and clear.

And yet, the Catersource/Event Solutions Conference grew and the energy there was phenomenal. In spite of a 60% reduction in budget for the evening event we worked on, the attendance increased almost 40% and vendor generosity was overwhelming as we worked together to accomplish our goals.

As I continued through the months to ponder these apparent misconnects, I wrestled with several theories, but for the most part I was stuck in the “just keep pushing forward and you will emerge at the head of the class.”

Until this morning, that is. Then reading through three different approaches in the Second Opinion column of Corporate Event Magazine, I finally put it together – I think.

The question was posed by a corporate planner concerned that “pinching pennies” was not sufficient so was looking for effective budget cuts that would not endanger the brand or lose customers to competitors. The magazine responded with three widely different approaches all demonstrating non-traditional, innovative and collaborative thinking to create win-wins for all involved.

• One levered the power of a single venue across three previously separate events. Although they remained separate events, they took place in the same city at different venues, and shared a single evening venue, creative, thematic, entertainment elements over course of three days. The result was a savings of $80,000.
• Another chose not to cut costs, but to add new revenue streams – all nonintrusive to attendees, inexpensive to implement, and all improved the attendee experience.
• And the third used an approach of cutting behind the scenes – one step eliminated the conference binder but posted it for download and supplied a free CD on site. Those that wanted a binder, purchased them online for $45-$75 each – creating a savings of $100,000. Another step dealt with almost invisible changes in the meal inclusions to cut per person meal charges up to $20 per person per day. One example shared did not cut items, merely restricted the number of a specific item to choose from.

In all cases, each response represented value as the responders found a way through innovation and collaboration to break through the barriers of traditional thinking. Each set out to approach their situation in a new light, put aside old paradigms, take risks, and break the rules in order to accomplish their goals, provide value and carefully balance audience needs with that of their internal or external client.

I submit this challenge to all of us: If we find ourselves consistently offering variations on a theme that worked ten years ago, we need to stop and self-police ourselves. Only if we can respond that our proposed reworked solution is still viable, applicable, and will yield desired results, should we go forward. If we proceed because it is comfortable and easy to implement, we do not produce value in the marketplace. We need to tirelessly pursue every option open to us as we look at our world differently.

As this economy continues to slowly improve, we will not find ourselves back in the familiar world of excess of the late 90s and early 2000s. This is not a RETURN it is a RESET. Those of us who cannot invent, discover, and implement new approaches during this time of experimentation will not be long-term players in the future.