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Stop the lurch

Peter Heath, managing director, Venue Performance, on the importance of getting up the nerve to look at the truth.

We're entering the 2023 budget season and the issue now facing the sector is how to forecast. We've been through some hugely varied years; 2019 was the strongest in a series of strong years. Then 2020 was nothing, 2021 was on life support, and 2022 was back.

So what does 'good' look like in 2022? At the beginning of the year, success looked like busyness. The phones were ringing, and events were coming back. Everything was good. The pent-up demand was real.

But at the end of the year, when the measuring stick gets brought out, all that gorging has yet to achieve the numbers we needed. So depending on where your budget falls, the general consensus is that 2022 could have done better than we thought it would do - or how we hoped it would do based on the euphoria of 'WE'RE BACK'. And now you're getting punched in the face every five minutes with pricing, staff shortages, inflation, the supply chain, and the corporates thinking about holding back.

So the euphoria of 'WE'RE BACK' is now being tempered with the need to set your budget for next year. This year it didn't matter what your numbers were. Just go hell for leather. Nobody's gonna fire you; It's all gravy compared to last year. Just Go! Go! Go!

The mood is now changing. People are now starting to panic because 2022 isn't turning out quite how we thought, and short-lead times mean that there is no way of forecasting for 2023........because it's all short lead times. There's no long-term forecasting because clients need to book long-term for that to have any certainty. So everyone's just lurching from one quarter to the next quarter.

The cost of delivering an event is rising because the venue has higher bills, and the buyers are holding back their cash; they're not making decisions; they want the most flexible ridiculous terms ever, which is understandable. That puts a strain on lead times, and the market can't really tool itself up for the future because people are still determining what the future looks like.

There's an element of sticking the numbers in and hoping they happen. And that's fine because you can't forecast for something that has no trend and no future numbers. But what you can do is you can search for the truth so that when you have those conversations, when you have those open discussions with your team, with your stakeholders, with your board, and you say; "well, we thought this was going happen, but actually the truth is a little different" But you can get smarter if you watch the data, and stop making knee-jerk reactions based on opinion alone.

You can be more tactical when you need to be because you've got evidence to back up your decisions.

And I know it's unpleasant. It's like going to the gym when you haven't been in years. You're wearing your old gym clothes and your Dunlop Green Flash trainers. You don't know how the machines work, you feel out of place, people are lifting weights and doing all sorts of clever stuff, and you feel silly. But you know you have to go to the gym to be sharper and nimbler.

So step outside your comfort zone (cos nothing grows there), and if you want to get fitter and be able to make those considered decisions based on the truth, you need to brace yourself and take a look at the facts.


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