Let’s Not Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water

Guest post by Maggie O'Neill, senior director Peppercommotions, Peppercom's experiential marketing and events division

The event industry, like so many others this year, already has its reputation on the line and it is only February.  Between Wells Fargo and Fashion Week (two names not usually in a sentence together), the industry has seen a mass exodus of support with once respected events being called frivolous and boondoggles.

This Monday’s New York Times Business Section featured an article “Business Trip or Just a Junket?  It Matters Lately.” Leading with the Wells Fargo “retreat,” the article cites Meeting Professionals International predicting a nine percent decrease in corporate meetings and events in 2009.  This number does not take into account Wells_fargo_logo
predictions of huge sponsorship decline, trade shows and press events. 

Is there justification in the decline and good reason to look for ways to cut back?  Of course.  However, is tossing the whole industry out the solution?  No.  So how can we as an industry create events that make sense in today’s economy?

We need to look beyond “events for events sake” and find a way to work with suppliers, planners and corporations to redefine what an event means.  Should we think digital, focus on a charity or cause around the event to support CSR, find ways to decrease cost and increase impact with a creative approach?  Also, while junkets may be eliminated, we can’t forget about the employees, their recognition and the impact these cancellations are having on other industries.

The article did point out a few bright spots we can look to for inspiration.  North Face, the outdoor apparel company who is not involved with any federal money like Wells Fargo and AIG, has found a creative way to trim the fat but not the fun.  In their retreat last year they cut the cost of 400 hotel rooms and took their group to sleep outdoors with fireside presentations instead of board rooms.   While not every company has the supplies to pull off a camp out success, most can look at their resources and find a new creative way to make an impact without canceling the event.

All in all, there is no denying we need to toss out some bath water in 2009, let’s just not drain the whole tub.

One thought on “Let’s Not Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water

  1. Amen, Maggie. As the president of an excellent nonprofit, I can tell you we are right in the bullseye for cuts in corporate sponsorship. It’s a shame, because the events we do really support both marketing and HR needs. We all have to watch our
    costs, but as you said, there’s too much tub draining going on.
    Last night I was at an event at Clif Bar, and you could see how excited their employees were, which had to have been a great respite from the peanut issues they’re dealing with and a rotten economy. You can bet employees showed up today feeling more positive and more productive. That’s bang for the buck.