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Have We Learned Anything?

It looks like the meetings and events business in Canada is showing real signs of recovery. But I’m wondering: Did the past 18 months teach us anything?


It looks like the meetings and events business in Canada is showing real signs of recovery. But I’m wondering: Did the past 18 months teach us anything?

I once had a client who, when told of our agency’s length of experience, asked if we had “10 years experience or one year’s experience 10 times over?”

The passage of time does not always translate into learning, and it’s human nature to forget the pain as soon as the good times return.

  • Budgets were cut more dramatically by more companies in 2009-10 than any other recent recession;
  • Incentives, in particular, were given a bad reputation by the North American press and a number of companies opted to cancel their events to avoid bad publicity. Do some companies still look at an event as an expense rather than an investment to build success?
  • Have we really defined the measurable criteria that will prove that well-designed events contribute significantly to a company’s marketing objectives?
  • Programme owners shifted the responsibility of awarding incentive and event programmes to procurement, which usually used the lowest price as their selection criterion and frequently ignored ‘intangibles’ such as creativity and experience.
  • Finally, the event business in Canada continues to be a low-margin, highly competitive industry that has more independent “experts” than any industry except, perhaps, insurance sales.

So, what have I learned from the Great Recession?

I know that:

  • Every event should be designed so the planner can demonstrate the value of the programme in business terms – return on investment and contribution to achieving corporate business objectives;
  • A good planner will be able to describe in a brief conversation, or in an RFP response, what distinguishes them from others in the industry;
  • Planners should pursue industry certifications to demonstrate their professionalism and dedication to our business;
  • There will be another recession one day (I have professionally survived three, so I doubt this was the last one), so we should be prepared to deal with it now, when times are reasonably good.

My mother always said if something didn’t kill you, it made you stronger. I hope all of us who have survived the past year and half are smarter and stronger.



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