Event Trends for 2002: Part Two

January 9, 2002, 12:00 AM EST

More responses on the challenges and new styles for special events this year:

One challenge is to cut down on the excessive number and length of boring speeches at fund-raisers. There is way too much preaching to the converted. And avoid costly, tedious and lengthy promotional videos that are shown during dinners, disrupting all conversations.

Tasty, stylish and healthy foods will feel appropriate, and passed hors d'oeuvres should be easy to eat and not messy.

David Hochberg
Vice President of Public Affairs, Lillian Vernon Corporation

There will be less gloss. The sobering element will continue for a while. People will have a conservative attitude about what to do and what not to do. People still want the decor, music and food, but it will be toned down. Until April, people will be pretty conservative. But hopefully after April, things will start to pick up and look less somber.

In 2002, comfort foods will be over. And contrary to what's being said, people want lots of liquor. Everyone is ordering full bars--not just wine. Decor will take one idea and strive for continuity with lots of monochromatic elements.

Joan Steinberg
Partner, Match Catering and Eventstyles
Event we've covered: Elle Girl's Flashy Girlpower Launch

The special event industry is still in a state of shock. The tragic events of September and the recession ended a remarkable five-year run of successful events with big budgets. All of the events we have worked on since September have eliminated dance floors. The organizers did not want to seem exuberant in the face of our national mourning. If no additional tragedies occur which affect our ability to celebrate, the happiness and joy of the celebration will get the feet moving again.

The initial job inquiries for spring look favorable. I believe by April the event proposals will start flowing into our office again. The budgets will be smaller and the attention to the price will be greater.

Christopher Starr
Starr Tents
Event we've covered: Russian Inspiration at Watermill Benefit

People don't want to seem as pretentious. Food is where they are indulging. Lobster macaroni and cheese still seems comforting, but it's upscale enough, and because it's American it seems appropriate.

Susan “Tinker” Boe
President, Mood Food Limited
Event we've covered: Gourmet's Food Tour Through the Ages

People are looking to do things that operate more smoothly--where it's not hard to be a guest. There are so many parties to go to in New York that you don't want the party you attend to be a headache. I think there will be more systems in the process of planning and that events will be more guest-friendly.

Themes and trends in event style will be calmer with more relaxed and comforting settings. A party will be a place to meet your friends and share time together and be less stressful. We need to create an atmosphere that will draw people in, but have a relaxed tone.

Lynn McGuire
Special Events Manager, Citymeals-on-Wheels
Event we've covered: Ladies Lunch to Laud Gael Greene

The biggest challenge is that companies may not wish to still host events. Some events will be cancelled and others may be in corporate meeting rooms.

Events will have a more comfortable feeling. Decor won't be as flamboyant, and we'll still see red, white and blue. Entertainment won't be as wild and crazy; a jazz trio may replace dancing. There will also be more focus on patriotism and Americana. Events will have less “ethnic” themes and a larger focus on New York and Americana. Also, we'll see more focus on family--with some events being less expensive, but having children's programs.

Jaclyn Bernstein
President and partner, Empire Force Events

The biggest challenge in the special events industry in 2002 will be letting people know that it's O.K. to entertain (budgets permitting). Feeling guilty about having a good time is the hurdle to overcome.

The most successful events in 2002 will be, above all, devoid of the overt and over-the-top glitz of years past. A whisper is needed, not a scream. Gone will be the almost offensive use of excess from the past few years. Restraint that is still absolutely beautiful will be key.

Food will start to inch away from heavily ethnic themes and lean towards more classical American foods that are fresh, with an edgy twist. We have strayed from our roots too often to impress jaded palates and now, we are coming full circle. DJs will become more and more popular because I have found people really want to dance their cares away.

Liz Seccuro
Creative Edge Parties
Event we've covered: Target Shills from Tent and Townhouse

The biggest challenge: Events overall seem frivolous. Re-establishing events' ability to deliver meaningful and measurable benefits to marketers will be crucial. Often events are the most tangible way that a brand can be brought to life, so capturing that through photos, videos and online materials is a key way to maximize the effectiveness of events. For fund-raisers, the challenge will be to get people to pay and/or turn out--there's benefit fatigue post-September 11.

Successful events will have more meaning, more message. But let's pray that doesn't just mean longer speeches and people jumping on the patriotism bandwagon (what we're getting so far), but rather using the entire event to convey more information.

Personal touches are good. At a Dior fragrance event, the company president had a signed letter in each gift bag. Nice touch. Handmade things are also appropriate now. For foods, things that are special and made by artisans, like special breads and unusual cheeses. We like things at events where people can do things and feel like they've accomplished something. We recently had a party with a station where people could make their own holiday ornaments. Big hit.

I hope we'll see: Friendly greeters who even try and shake your hand, and say thank you for coming when you leave. And more email responses--it saves everybody so much time (why are clients resistant to this?).

Ted Kruckel
Ted Inc.
Event we've covered: Vanity Fair's Fashion Week V.I.P. Lounge

Decor should include more interactive atmospheres to get your juices going and an environment that can wake you up. Events will have loungey style, and be comfortable and less formal--formality in this time period is not as important as comfort. Events will transport guests. People want to get away and escape the day-to-day stresses that are a little frightening and unknown.

Dyann Klein
Founder/president, Props for Today
Event we've covered: Nude Models & Disco for Art Benefit

The somewhat cautious mood in the events area will continue through the first quarter. Things should begin to pick up in the second quarter. People will remain cautious, and only when business news is consistently good will parties, in number and nature, really improve.

As in the late 80's, comfort food will probably be more in evidence, and a disinclination toward outward shows of excess. That doesn't mean that caviar and foie gras sales will plummet, only that they won't be as visible. In New York, entertainment is integral to business, and short of an earthquake it will continue.

Stephen Kennard
President, Canard Inc.
Event we've covered: Celeb Handcrafts at New Art Museum

The biggest challenges are giving customers what they're used to in this new economy, and helping the customer determine what's appropriate now.

Event style in 2002 will have cleaner lines and a cleaner look. Events will be warm and inviting without looking overly abundant or silly. Everybody wants their guests to feel welcome, now more than ever. Events should show guests you are spending money on them because you care about them, while at the same time you don't want to seem frivolous.

David Beahm
Event Designer, David Beahm Designs
Event we've covered: In Theme and Tone, Whit Gala Is Circus

The industry will continue to create highly stylized affairs with a lot of heart. Successful events will continue to mix a proper dose of escapism with a large amount of thankfulness. It's a really wonderful time to be an event planner. Anything goes--from minimalist designs to outrageous decor treatments; it's a blank canvas waiting to be filled.

Relaxation and nonprofit themes will dominate 2002: philanthropy-celebrity matchmakers, cause-related marketing and the use of spa-related promotions.

Adam Nelson
President, Workhouse Publicity
Event we've covered: Coppola Holds Italian Street Fair

In 2002, the special events industry will be dealing with its slowing momentum. To revitalize the industry is easily the biggest challenge.

I personally believe that you can not lay off thousands of people and then throw a fabulous, lavish party--it's in poor taste. We are currently designing pieces that are more functional and less flashy. Successful parties have to be planned with less money and more creativity.

Daniel Nardicio
Pink Inc.
Event we've covered: Sorceress' Magic at Central Park Ball

Successful events will pay more attention to genuine human emotion and create fully rounded unique experiences, which will allow designers a somewhat greater leeway in their designs. Also, there will have to be some type of emphasis on tradition, but that can be manifested in a multitude of attention-grabbing ways. People will want to move back to what is comfortable, soothing and nurturing.

Innovative technology will dominate our designs--the use of new, emerging technologies that are perhaps translated or adapted from their original intent for use in our events, including computer-generated art and new total-submersion virtual reality that thousands can experience without the use of sight-altering glasses. These elements will mix with the organic elements to keep events grounded and connected to the earth.

Mark Veeder
Creative Director/Partner, EventQuest
Event we've covered: Departures Stays Home, Toasts NYC

The challenges: Security concerns (ensuring guests' safety in a crowded place), more limited disposable income of partygoers, fewer dollars available for corporate sponsorships of charitable events, reluctance of people outside Manhattan to come into the city, and reluctance to travel to downtown venues.

Successful events will be smaller in scale and less elaborate, but probably have more fantastic or make-believe fun stuff for people to escape reality for a night but not feel guilty. Events will have more social consciousness, by tying events to some kind of charity and incorporating a charitable message throughout the event, from invitations to decor.

Julia Erickson
Executive Director, City Harvest

I think the turn of events that America faced in 2001, with the economy changing for the worse and the tragedy of September 11, immediately changed the tone of the special event industry. As a result, individuals and companies do not have the generous budgets that they did in 2000 or 2001. I don't see 2002 being an event-friendly time until the economy rebounds, which unfortunately I don't think will happen until the third quarter.

Jake Spitz
President, Network PR
Event we've covered: Beefcake Opens the New W Hotel

For a nonprofit, one major challenge is to keep corporations and previous supporters mindful of the needs of an organization in light of the recent tragedies that have befallen the city.

In the end, people remember the events that are elegant, but not too over-the-top, because you always want to be mindful of not looking as though you've spent too much money to make an event happen.

Monique Brizz-Walker
Director of Special Events, American Folk Art Museum
Event we've covered: Celeb Handcrafts at New Art Museum

Everything is so shaky now. I did more business this November and December than I did last year at this time, but my worry is that January and February will drop off. I worry that my employees--who I've been keeping really busy--will be collecting unemployment from me in January and February.

Matthew Herfield
President, Metropolitan Hospitality
Event we've covered: Seeing Red for Red Cross Benefit

Corporations do not want to be perceived as being involved in events that are more than the barest necessary to accomplish the task at hand. It is without exception that we have our corporate clients asking us to minimize the appearance of celebration.

Many centralized events are being divided regionally. One of our clients cancelled an annual four-day internal event that brought employees from across the country, and instead had us create a truckable event to be set up twice a week for eight regional, one-day-only events. This minimizes the travel distance and time needed for the employees.

Stephen Spoonamore
CEO, Creative Production Resource Group
Event we've covered: A Candy-Colored Mardi Gras Party

Posted 01.09.02

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