Debunking Industry Myths

 Lindsey Rood-Clifford | Sr. Event Producer

Lindsey Rood-Clifford | Sr. Event Producer

As event professionals, we come across more than our fair share of myths, legends and misconceptions regarding what we do…not to mention what our value is as third-party event producers.

For those of us that live, breathe and thrive in our event-related jobs – necessary byproducts to sustain a career with the kind of hours and workload we do – it’s not just a matter of contention, it’s a matter of the heart.

Which is to say: call us “party planners,” and you best prepare for an impassioned soap box speech about how much more we do than “just plan parties.”

And yet, when there is a pervasive devaluation – and dismissal – of the events industry as an integral and worthy part of business – both for-profit and nonprofit alike – it’s clearly not an isolated perception.

When the economy fell apart in 2008, events and event positions within companies were some of the first budgets slashed. After all, didn’t events represent discretionary spending? Weren’t events and event personnel “luxuries”?  Wasn’t spending money on “parties” a poor way of responding to job cuts and budget challenges?

Working for a company that has thrived on developing, consulting on and producing large-scale corporate and nonprofit events for over a decade –through the recession – we have faced, combatted and enthusiastically debunked the myths about our value to a business. This isn’t a sales pitch. This isn’t hype. It’s what we know to be true.

And so, we’d like to take a moment to play the part of “mythbusters”:

Myth # 1: Events are just parties

Who doesn’t love a good party? Parties are fun. People like to go to parties. But events are not just parties. Events are meetings, conferences, retreats, fundraisers and more. Events – when done right – have extreme purpose, and while fun should be and often is a part of an event, it should not be the driving force behind one. Events, like businesses and nonprofit organizations, have objectives. Primarily, events present an unparalleled opportunity to connect a brand with an audience. We do this in many different ways: through strategic scripting, through branding and thematic reiteration, through comprehensive understanding of an event’s goal and a client’s desired outcome. Events (and our clients) are like snowflakes – each unique, each unto themselves…and so much more than parties.

Myth # 2: Events are a waste of money

Events often span many different traditional departments and audiences. Internal and external.  Marketing, HR, development – you name it, an event can be related to it. Some call it ‘experiential marketing’ in relation to conferences and conventions. It’s live marketing. It’s the same brand connection – amped up, in our humble opinion – that an ad or a mailer provides. Some events fall under ‘human resources’ and provide opportunities to build morale or deepen a connection within an organization to its values and mission. For nonprofits, events represent critical opportunities to raise money. And yes, sometimes you have to spend money, to make money.

Which leads to what events are: an investment. Yes, they cost money, but they are not about frivolously throwing money away. When managed properly, your expenses are controlled with care and with a clear objective in mind (see Myth # 1). This can absolutely mean that table linens are important if they help subliminally emphasize a company’s rebranding. This can mean that you should spend the extra money on great A/V production but less on the bar during an internal retreat when education is a priority. Or it can mean spend the money on the bar when hosting high-level donors that you want to cultivate into deep relationships with your nonprofit. Whatever it is, it is investing with an understanding that the opportunity to connect in a live environment is far greater than on paper, over the internet, or over the phone.

Myth # 3: I don’t need a third-party event agency

An event agency can integrate with a business in a number of ways. Sometimes there isn’t an internal events person: it’s the marketing director or the development director carrying the burden of event execution amongst all their other charges. In this case, it’s financially sound to “co-source” and hire out for what might otherwise be a full-time position with benefits. In other instances, there’s a capable internal person who is still just one person. Events are rarely a one-person job, and an event company can provide “boots on the ground” in the form of support, expertise and logistical coordination. For nonprofits, particularly, an event company can free up your internal resources to focus on the business of fundraising and donor cultivation. For for-profits, they can provide additional support and resources to the internal person with event accountability. In any case, the right event partner can either take the lead or the backseat based on the organization’s capacity, needs and objectives. There’s probably an entire separate article’s worth of content on the value of the consistency that a good third-party partner can provide to organizations in a professional environment that suffers from an average 18-24 month employment retention.

Finally, we would be remiss to not acknowledge that most myths have reasonable rooting in reality – and that there are certainly instances where events don’t live up to their potential. Event managers – internal or external – are not always wise stewards of an organization’s investment. Part of our challenge is to continue to practice what we preach in making events every bit the critical, focused and worthy opportunities to connect a brand with an audience and achieve something with tangible results and lasting impact. We don’t plan parties – we produce meaningful, purposeful opportunities for messaging. We don’t waste money – though successful events often require an investment. And if you think you don’t need us – we would love the opportunity to prove you wrong.

And I speak for the entire EPIC team when I say we approach that last “opportunity” with every bit the same passion that we do in response to being called a “party planner.” It’s not just a job. It’s a matter of the heart – and a business we take very seriously.