What is a Commodity? According to dictionary.com it is:
"An article of trade or commerce, especially a product as distinguished from a service"
What is a Specialist? According to dictionary.com it is:
"A person who devotes himself or herself to one subject or to one particular branch of a subject or pursuit"
It is hard to believe that I, Nancy Shaffer, have been in the events business for over 20 years and it has been an amazing 20 years. I have loved watching and participating in the evolution of an industry. One particular change that has been so important is the increase of educational programs at universities and colleges where people who want to enter the field can be educated in so many areas that are important, gain degrees or certificates, and have an ongoing opportunity to further their own knowledge of the industry.
When I started people would say "Oh, you are a caterer?" or "Right, you plan parties!" Now becoming a planner is a very sought after and respected career. We are profiled in movies, advertisements and TV show’s: remember the son on the Sopranos who wanted to be a planner? Our roles impact every aspect of an organization and our services no longer are so quickly passed on to someone else who can “handle it” on top of their “real” job. So wouldn't it make sense that with not only the increased education around our industry, but the economic impact of our industry and the overall organizational impact a well done event has, that consumers would not only see the difference in the end product but value hiring a qualified, experienced and trained event professional? Sadly not so much, we continue to be viewed more often than not as a commodity; a product not a service and this is where the challenge truly begins.
If we are seen as a commodity than can’t you buy me just about anywhere? How do we:
A: Prove our value and worth – a qualified experienced professional will not only save an organization money but have the ability to maximize the investment through strategy and knowledge.
B: Showcase the difference between someone new to the field versus those with years of experience – ask yourself would you expect a first year law associate to be as knowledgeable and valuable as a Partner?
C: Change the mindset of the consumer/clients so they see us as valuable service providers and specialists.
I believe that part of the answer lies within our own industry where we must do a better job of holding ourselves accountable, setting industry standard practices, and thinking about how our business ethics impact our industry as a whole. We battle every day with the belief that “anybody can plan and execute an event – how hard can it be?” To be done right it is hard, it takes thought, strategy, respect and the experience one gets by making mistakes. We are specialists, we provide measurable return on events, and we understand the importance of a live experience and how to exceed expectations. However if we continue to undercut, hide fees in commissions, discounts and kick backs we will remain a commodity if we understand and are able to articulate and show our value the mindset will change not only with the consumer but within yourself.
Are you as an organization providing a commodity or is your service that of a specialist and you can show your value and worth in concrete ways?