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The Stimson Report May 08

No matter how well a company is doing, the conversation turns to the economy and the uncertainty of the future. The discussion isn't doomsday; no one seems concerned that the downturn will last. What they are interested in is more creative ways to survive and come out on top. This month I explore the industry buzz about the economy and some thoughts about what it all means in The Stimson Report. Stay in tune by reading on:

News and Thoughts:
This past month I have spent a lot of time traveling and meeting with folks in the industry. The conversation almost always drifts toward the economy and because of the recent concerns over recession, gas prices, and inflation there's some concern over what will happen next. In general, I am finding that everyone has been having a great year so far. In fact, I can only cite a handful of event stagers who have not had a record-breaking first quarter. As for the future, I can divide sentiments into three categories: The folks who are expecting continued good business in the coming months; the ones who are seeing a huge downturn in their pipeline; and the ones who just don't know but expect the worst. I call these groups the Prosperers, the Survivors, and the Victims.

The Prosperers are those companies currently engaged in initiatives designed to grow business. These are not just "pushes" such as increased sales calls or aggressive pricing. These are strategic efforts such as creative alliances, enterprise relationships, new business segments, mergers, and capital investments. Prosperers know how to take risks that lead to bigger rewards. Only a handful of firms appear to be in this group and they include well-known companies, but more often these are businesses you have not heard about yet. Young, entrepreneurial companies often start as Prosperers. Survivors represent the top 25 percent our industry. They are familiar names in most markets, and they know how to maintain or improve the status quo. When the economy is up, they go up with it. When it is down, they manage to not go down as much.

Victims on the other hand either bounce up and down with the fortunes of their market, or they stagnate at the same level - seemingly forever. The difference between the Survivors and the Victims is best expressed by where they stand on one issue in particular: fuel prices. The Victims are concerned about what increasing fuel prices are doing to their business while the Survivors are looking beyond the short-term costs of fuel and onwards to how they can parlay the issue into better meeting customer needs.

Prosperers may be concerned about fuel prices as they are all expenses, but for some reason they dont seem obsessed with things out of their control.

My prediction for the 2008 Corporate Event Staging industry seems to be playing out as expected. The first half of the year is booming and the second half looks like it will drop for most firms. The Victims are going to worry about it and maybe make some short-term decisions. Survivors are already braced for the worst. Prosperers well, they are making deals, developing concepts, and generally kicking everyone elses rear. Youd never know from their actions that gas is $4.00 per gallon!

Finds:
Speaking of taking risks and prospering, I have learned more about two cool companies that have something in common. Pulse Staging and Events in Escondido, CA and CCR Solutions of Toronto, ON are both members of the Green Meetings Industry Councilhttp://www.greenmeetings.info/ and have taken efforts to not only improve their own carbon footprint, they are educating their customers on how to do the same. I recently visited with Pulse owner and CEO Midori Connolly. She is finding a great deal of interest in the concept among meeting planners and producers who want to differentiate their services. It's a strong stance to take especially in a tough economy, but CCR and Pulse both seem to be making it work for them.

Events:
Gee, are there any upcoming events I should be thinking about attending? Hmm, how about InfoComm? It's only the largest trade show in North America for the audio-visual presentation and events industry. If you are thinking, "I cant afford it this year" then reread the rest of this newsletter. The Prosperers will all be there, as will the Survivors. Let me give you a tip: your company is probably a member of InfoComm and you just dont know it. InfoComm members get discounts on courses and seminars, plus they get an educational credit with their membership that actually pays course fees. Yes, many InfoComm members attend courses for FREE. So, buy a cheap airline ticket to Vegas, stay in one of the affordable rooms arranged by InfoComm or stay at your favorite fleabag motel, and eat at the many manufacturer-sponsored receptions. This is an investment in your business and career you cant afford to miss.

Learn more at: http://www.infocommshow.org/infocomm2008/public/enter.aspx

News:
Get the latest news on the wireless mic panic at Shure Incorporated's website for White Space news at http://shure.com/ProAudio/PressRoom/WhiteSpaces/index.htm. What you will learn is that some markets will pose problems for some wireless mic frequencies. Companies can already purchase wireless products that will work in the post-DTV transition. Get the facts, educate yourselves and your customers, and start upgrading your inventory.

While newer wireless mics will provide the reliability we need for the known future of the white space, the undetermined future is still a little scary. Shure is actively campaigning on behalf of the industry for all of us. They want to make certain that new technologies developed by firms utilizing the white space will be compatible with the wireless mics used by the entertainment industry. These new technologies are not yet approved, but if they were it would reduce the reliability of the above-mentioned post-DTV wireless mics. The following story will give you an idea of what they are up against: http://www.rentalandstaging.com/articles/publish/article_1149.shtml