In the competitive world of business, a company's image can be just as important as the products or services it offers. That's why firms spend millions of pounds each year hosting or attending conferences, running charity events, organising product launches and throwing company parties.
To ensure the occasion runs smoothly, event management companies are often brought in to run the behind-the-scenes show. While a flair for arranging activities or parties for friends and work colleagues may indicate an interest in event management, much more is required to achieve a footing in this field.
Well-established competitors will already have a client list, tried and trusted suppliers and a portfolio of successful events to entice new business. Being able to attract customers away from the competition means being able to show you can deliver on the day and at a reasonable price - not easy without the experience to prove it.
Having said that, the variety of events required by prospective clients, whether companies or individuals, means there are a lot of niche opportunities for anyone with the imagination and enthusiasm to exploit them.
Event management can incorporate the whole spectrum of activity organisation, from setting up conferences for blue-chip companies to organising a wedding. Basically, any occasion that needs organising can be handled by an event management company.
Sarah Withers launched her company, Aspect Event Management, in 2001. "All of the events we manage are for corporate customers, as they have more money to spend," says Withers. "We have been asked to do weddings, but they are likely to have more financial considerations. We have received most recognition for our themed parties, but we also do team-building courses, conferences, product launches and family fun days."
Her advice is to concentrate on specific areas, rather than provide the whole gamut of services, where you will hit a lot more competition. "By developing a niche you get to know the contractors - who provide the services such as catering and lighting - and will get better deals if you are using them repeatedly. You can get spread too thin otherwise."
In setting up Banbury-based Heirs & Graces in June 2001, Sam Turner also decided to target the corporate side of the business but has focused mainly on arranging conferences, as there were no conference agents in the area. "There are a lot of events companies," she warns, "which means a lot of competition."