Running a business isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when you’re living during a time of economic uncertainty. Just like any other business, event pros and vendors have had to navigate several recessions throughout the years. There was one recession that lasted eight months, from July 1990 to March 1991. Omarr Cantú writes that it impacted the event industry for several years afterward. That was followed by the Dot Com bust in the early 2000s, the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the Great Recession of 2008.
Yet all of those periods seem trivial when compared to what the event industry faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the United States in March 2020. “In the recession of 2008-2010, exhibition revenues were down about 15 percent. That was largely driven by lower sponsorship as well as a reduction of attendees,” Robert Gray, Operating Partner for EagleTree Capital and former Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of UBM, told Skift Meetings. “But down 15 percent, horrible as it was, is nothing like the pandemic reduction of 100 percent.”
Data from UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, showed that the event industry lost $16.5 billion by the end of March 2020. And in a survey by EventMB conducted during the pandemic, 90 percent of event professionals reported that some or most of their business had disappeared, with 52 percent losing income and 10 percent being laid off.
Although we hope to never see another pandemic in this lifetime, it is inevitable that the economy will slow down at certain points. So what are some ways that event pros have kept their business strong during times of economic uncertainty? We've got some tips to help you during these periods!
It's never a bad idea to be frugal, and tightening up your spending habits during uncertain times helps not only conserve funds but helps to prevent any regret you might have should it turn into a loss, says Wendy Kidd of Each & Every Detail.
Expanding the range of services offered can help mitigate the impact of economic downturns, explains Charles Moll of Charles Moll Photography. For example, event planners can branch out into corporate events, conferences, or other types of celebrations. “This diversification allows businesses to tap into different market segments and maintain a steady income stream,” he notes.
Offering Alternative Options
"During times of economic uncertainty, couples and clients are looking for more affordable options. During the pandemic, many pros offered options such as smaller events, virtual events, or off-peak season discounts," says Judi Gevara, founder of Bloomsake.
Don’t close yourself off to negotiation and be willing to work with clients to find solutions that work for both parties. This may include adjusting pricing, payment plans, or services offered.
In uncertain times, attending networking events and consistently publishing on social media helps others know you are still here and ready and willing to work on fabulous events, says Kidd. It excites potential clients and helps them feel more confident in hiring you, while vendors will feel more comfortable referring you to others.
Partnering with Other Vendors
You can take referrals to another level by teaming up with other vendors on package deals. “While it may bring less profit in comparison to an event planner hiring vendors individually, the financial incentives make these packages appealing to a broader demographic,” says Paul Kushner, CEO of My Bartender. “Clients are feeling the pinch and that is the domino that takes us all down, so uniting to give clients a better deal can be a great short-term solution.”
Keeping Up with Industry Trends
Stay informed about industry trends and changes in consumer behavior. As Gevara points out, this will help you stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changing market conditions.
Technology rose to the next level during the pandemic, so you should definitely use the convenience of technology—virtual consults, online tools like Aisle Planner’s Wedpay, and live streaming—to your advantage. They can all help your business run more smoothly and efficiently.
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Hero photo courtesy of Jill Jones Photography