I have been an event producer for three and a half decades. I have lived through many recessions in the event industry and survived. And through all of these years, I have seen all kinds of challenges, but the new challenges we are facing today in the event industry are affecting our ability to do our job effectively.
It is a known fact that planning events is stressful; in fact, event planning ranks up there with careers such as pilots, fire fighters, police, etc. You get the picture. Planning events is a tough job.
Now throw in supply chain issues and a severe skilled labour shortage, and you’ve got yourself a real kettle of fish.
So just how do these issues show up in the daily life of an event planner? Here are five examples of real-life problems that we are experiencing today.
1.Quotes not being sent on time
Recently I waited TWO MONTHS to receive an A/V quote from a large hotel in Vancouver. And I only received the quote because I emailed other people in the organization to see if that person still worked there. This constant “chasing” of documents that we need to do our job just adds to the mountain of stress.
Once we receive the supplier quotes that we need to manage our event, we are then expected to be an expert in everything. Most people sending the quotes today have only been in the industry a short time and are green. They are inexperienced and not seasoned experts…another item for the stress pile. We now have to try to figure out if the quote is all-encompassing and accurate, and sometimes we honestly don’t know.
3.Lack of staff to install and set up
After hand-holding and babysitting our event partners, now we have to worry that they will show up and do what we have contracted them to do. Lucky for Bright Ideas as we have decade-long relationships with our event vendors, so this issue for us is rare. However, last year we were working with a new caterer and just four days before the event date they cancelled their service. No explanation, just an email saying that they could no longer provide the food service for 400 guests. This was a 10-out-of -0 on the stress scale!
4.Poor advice from our trusted partners
All businesses in the event industry right now are struggling with new staff. A huge percentage of our seasoned professionals left the event industry during COVID. They just could not wait around for two years for things to return to normal. So now, we have companies providing us with goods and services by staff who are just learning. This learning curve is resulting in mistakes, broken promises and serious oversights. Some catastrophic.
5.Overpromising and under delivering
Event planners are like a general contractor who assembles a team of trade professionals to build a house. Each discipline has its own specialty and there is an order in how the house needs to be built. Electrical, plumbing, heating, dry wall, etc. all fall under a tightly scheduled plan. Just like planning an event. All suppliers are interconnected and dependent on each other. If someone drops the ball, the whole project is compromised. And this is what we are facing daily with our jobs as event planners today.
When I started my business in 1988, we didn’t have the internet and cell phones. All of our ideas came from within our brains and were born out of true ingenuity. We dreamed up our ideas and then set out to see if we could find supporting event components to bring our visions to life.
For the first 10 years of my career, I felt like an investigator. Always searching for that special event partner to wow our guests by creating something that they had never seen before. And, I found many amazing partners back then whom I still work with today. The difference today is that back in the 1980s, most of the supporting businesses in our industry were run by the owners themselves. They were knowledgeable and knew their stuff! Sadly, the business model in the event industry today is not the same. Most companies are owned by a big conglomerate and managers are installed to see that things are run properly.
Herein lies the problem. People are staying in their jobs for shorter periods of times so that they do not become experts in their field. This means that the onus falls on our shoulders to make sure that our service providers are providing us with what is best for our event. And unfortunately, event planners are not plumbers, carpenters, electricians and drywallers, but are expected to know everything about each of these trades. And, this is where the model becomes unsustainable.
Burnout is real and happening at alarming rates, as seasoned event producers don’t want the added stress and responsibility of being everything to everybody. Plus, we don’t get paid enough for this!
Sharon Bonner is an award-winning event producer, event strategy consultant and published author who founded Bright Ideas Event Agency in 1988. In October 2022, she launched her event consulting business www.sharonbonnerconsulting.com to assist clients in producing their own events.