Event's first ever survey of the industry suggests that event budgets will increase this year, with almost half of respondents indicating that they will spend more in 2005 than they did in 2004. Encouragingly, of those indicating that budgets will increase this year, 85% predicted that their investment across the sector will grow by up to 30%.
However it's not just expenditure that is set to improve in 2005, as more than half the responses to the survey - conducted by research specialists Vivid Interface in association with the International Special Events Society (ISES) - indicate a rise in the number of events to be staged.
Around 1,800 readers of Event and sister titles RSVP and Conference & Incentive Travel provided feedback on the latest industry trends and spending.
Respondents included clients, agencies, suppliers and venues from a range of sectors.
With 78% of answers indicating an increase of up to 30% in the number of events this year, the future certainly looks promising for the industry, with renewed investment reaping its rewards.
Joe Macgregor, managing director of agency Sprout, believes the increased investment is demonstrated by agencies expanding their live event resources.
"When you note the number of advertising groups that are now picking up on the sector and creating an agency resource to deliver event solutions I think this is the biggest indicator of growth. To be investing in the sector in this way, clients must be demanding it," he says.
However, although there is evidence that the number of events is increasing, Macgregor also warns that restricting event organisers' budgets can lead to a drop in quality. "There seems to be more briefs around and more confidence but this is not necessarily reaching the bottom line," he says. "With the rise of procurement, costs are being driven down and clients are now hunting in terms of budgets and are more cost conscious."
By sector, the increase in budgets this year signifies an encouraging rejuvenation in exhibitions as an event marketing strategy. Of those who responded to the question regarding exhibition spend, 83% indicated an increase in their exhibition budgets by 0-30%. A further 14% suggest budgets in this sector will rise by 31-60%.
Simon Naudi, managing director of exhibition training specialists Answers Training, has seen a greater interest in exhibitions as well as education in the sector. "There has certainly been an increase, not just in terms of spending money on exhibiting," he says.
"In the past nine months I've also noticed a rise in the number of people booking exhibiting training, which suggests they are taking it more seriously and acknowledge how behaviour on the stand affects results."
For those organising product launches, the response was once again positive, with 81% of those increasing budgets this year suggesting an increase on 2004's funds of up to 30%.
Jeremy Garbett, joint managing director of live events company Jack Morton Worldwide, has seen investment grow in the sector. He says: "As companies begin to allocate greater budget they are beginning to want more for their money. Companies have told us that they're investing in our events because we can tangibly change behaviour."
Further good news comes from organisers of field marketing and brand experience campaigns. Of those increasing their budget this year, more than 75% of respondents from these sectors signal a budget rise of up to 30%.
By sector, there is particular interest in the professional services industry, from which more than 90% of those increasing their budget are raising their investment by up to half. Similarly, 92% of financial services representatives that are enlarging spend suggest budgets will be boosted by up to 30%.
Jack Morton's Garbett says he has seen increased investment from the financial services sector recently. For Jack Morton in particular, 2005 is also a big year for government ventures with the team involved in the G8 summit in Scotland.
Across all the sectors, almost half of the responses indicating greater spend suggest an increase of up to 10%, another 27% mention rises of 11-20%, and 16% suggest an increase of 21-30%.
One surprising result to emerge from the research is that the majority of respondents say their decision to use a company is not influenced by its affiliation with a trade body. More than 60% indicated they do not feel more inclined to hire a company simply because it is a member of an association or network.
Newly appointed ISES president Richard Groves is disappointed by this as he feels that trade bodies help to better the industry. "Many people join a trade body to be responsible to their peer group," he says. "To join ISES for example you need to have been in business for some time and questions may be asked of each company before they join. For clients using them, this creates an inherent safety net. If people do not perceive this to be of value we certainly need to address this and put the message across harder."
The projected cost of events also comes under the spotlight in the survey.
A breakdown of average costs for events, per head, found that product launches came out toward the higher end of the scale at £102.53. Trailing behind is corporate hospitality at £94 per head, brand experiences at £80.28 and exhibitions budgeted at £77.30 per person.
Macgregor, whose agency Sprout has worked on product launches for car manufacturers Renault and Nissan, says: "Certainly I would say the cost per head is going up but it's very difficult to put a figure on a big idea. There can be a strong knock-on effect on sales, for example, if you get it right."
The survey asked for details of the size of events teams, and its results show that event departments are mostly small. Some 71% of respondents across the sectors have a team of five staff or fewer. For clients' in-house event teams, 78% of respondents are part of a team of five or less, 11% have a team of between six and 10 and just 5% have a staff of 11-15.
Agencies demonstrate larger teams of dedicated event staff, with 20% of those surveyed employing 11 or more staff.
With Return On Investment (ROI) at the forefront of everyone's agenda the methods used to gauge effectiveness of events is another hot topic.
Of those working in the brand experience and live events sector, 84% say they use personal feedback as a method of measuring event success. With respondents able to select more than one method, brand awareness and number of sales leads generated also scored highly.
For the exhibition sector, personal feedback received the largest support with 83% of respondents suggesting they use it as a measurement tool.
66% say they use the number of sales leads generated as an indicator.
Answers Training's Naudi says: "Personal feedback should certainly be part of the mix but should not be exclusive. I am surprised it came out top but this may be because clients don't have specific methods of measuring in place, so personal feedback is the only thing they have to go on."
Jack Morton's business development director, Rachel Kemp, suggests that as budgets are increasing, so is the need to create more detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis.
"Traditionally events is an area where measurement is based on personal feedback but increasingly clients are wanting more robust measurement tools," she says. "Now we're wanting to measure responses three months down the line to gauge behaviour change. Of course there needs to be investment from clients to do a proper robust job."
Breaking down event professionals by sector also showed an unrivalled commitment to personal feedback. Of those working in corporate hospitality, 91% said they use this as a method of measurement. Similarly, 95% of professional services employees and 94% of pharmaceutical respondents rated personal feedback as a clear indicator of event success.
The clear message from this is that measurement is a necessary component in events - and as investment increases in the medium, the need for accountability increases too.