Perfect economic storm a test as event planners urged to co-operate and contingency plan

Sky-high inflation is the latest in a line of reasons why we need to take a long-term view to planning events, says Sophie Cox, senior account manager, Live Group:


The International Monetary Fund has warned that the global economic outlook is “gloomier” than projected. This is particularly true here in Europe where inflation is over 10% in many countries.

Add in currency fluctuations, continuing Covid infections, inflated flight and hotel costs and you have a perfect storm of uncertainty facing businesses everywhere. In the events world, this is translating to soaring costs and short quote guarantees.

One of the outcomes of the pandemic was the shift to a more reactive approach to event planning. Everyone got used to working to much shorter lead times to try and adapt to fast-changing rules and border closures and make up for any lost time caused by successive lockdowns. But with some suppliers now only able to hold prices for little more than a week, this may no longer be a viable approach.

Staff shortages, supply chain difficulties, the war in Ukraine, currency fluctuations and supply and demand are all contributing factors here. We’re now looking at budgets as far ahead as 2024 to confirm what we can at a fixed price, in order to protect and insure against further changes down the line. This long-term view may seem counter-intuitive in an ever-changing economic landscape but when you think about it, we’ve never really been in a position to accurately  predict what the world is going to look like in 18 months so this current uncertainty shouldn’t stop us from planning ahead now.

Close working relationships and prompt and effective decision making are of course absolutely vital when working to longer lead times, so we can keep track of changing costs, lock in prices in advance and keep budgets in line. One benefit of working with a major agency like ours is purchasing power with a global network of suppliers, which means prices can be kept as competitive as possible and more innovative solutions sought. We have developed amazing relationships with Live Group’s preferred suppliers over many years so we can call on them to benefit our clients during tough times like these.

Regular and open dialogue between a client and an agency team is also essential to understand the pressures on both sides and the real priorities for any event. That way, we can focus on the areas that will provide the biggest return on investment and plan those in ahead of time, with the opportunity to reassess and change things as an event draws closer.

We’re supporting our clients by building in a range of buffers and contingencies, not just on finances. We’re also considering everything from whether we should introduce more digital and hybrid elements to a live event or open registration later, to reducing the size of a space or bringing in more sponsors to raise more revenue.

We’ve actually seen our clients respond to this really well. They know that a lot of things are out of their control now, but they understand our expertise and experience means we’re used to looking at different options and contingency plans so they trust us to guide them through this process and react to the ever-changing environment.

Prioritising cost doesn’t mean sacrificing sustainability commitments, either. We’re also working with clients to advise them on how they can offset carbon emissions and set reduction targets while keeping an eye on budgets.

The good news is the events industry is in a strong position to ride whatever storms continue to come our way. Over nearly three years, we’ve grown accustomed to uncertainty, price fluctuations, 11th-hour changes, cancellations and contingency planning into the small hours. But actually, event professionals have always had to be very good at predicting the unpredictable. For most of us, planning ahead while expecting the unexpected, is simply business as usual.