January 2, 2023
By: Cheryl Mah
Passion, creativity and dedication are some of the hallmarks of the best event planners. And one of the best is Sharon Bonner, founder and CEO of Bright Ideas Events in Vancouver – a 30 year industry veteran who loves what she does.
“I love two things about the event industry. Number one, I love this event community and the event professionals in it, who are hard-working, dedicated people, putting their heart and soul into every one of their event projects,” she says. “Number two, I love the unbridled creative opportunity to create ‘out of the box’ experiences for our clients. A team of event colleagues, who share our vision to create something that has never been done before, have helped us create many of our award winning events.”
Since founding Bright Ideas Events in 1988, Bonner has garnered many awards for her contributions and achievements over the years. In 2022, she launched Sharon Bonner Consulting to provide clients with supportive event consulting services.
“Planning events today is nothing like it was in the 1990s when I started Bright Ideas,” says Bonner. “In the past, we had months to plan events and were given time to develop our creative concepts. Nowadays, we have weeks to plan events and be creative, and are facing all sorts of challenges, which brings incredible uncertainty.”
For anyone entering our industry today, her advice is to be patient and flexible.
“Things are changing constantly both during the planning stages, as well as during the event set up. Also, have your own techniques to relieve the stress that this job brings and always remember to communicate how you are feeling with peers in the industry. It is no secret that we are all struggling to adjust to unrealistic planning time lines coupled with inflated event costs. Working in this industry can be super stressful, as well as incredibly rewarding. Managing the stress is real and part of the job nowadays,” she says.
Tell us how you got started in event planning.
It was 1988 and I was a sales rep for BC Lotteries in Vancouver. My girlfriend needed help writing a business plan for her new business idea – event planning. I had no idea what event planning was. As I worked my way through the business plan, I realized this business sounded like a lot of fun and it fit me to a tee! I was very organized, I constantly made lists and I loved working with people. I asked my friend if she wanted a partner and so Bright Ideas Events was born! Coming from an entrepreneurial family, running my own business was in my blood.
What are some challenges for the industry?
The most significant challenge we are facing as an industry overall is the labour shortage. During the pandemic, many event professionals left the industry and have not returned. This has created an industry with inexperienced staff who are learning on the fly.
Event planners are facing a shortage of vendors and inventory on a daily basis. This lack of supplies from vendors can have a negative impact on clients and their event vision. Due to staffing shortages, some vendors have to turn away opportunities or increase labour costs.
Shipping costs and time have also increased significantly due to the rising cost of gas, supply chain issues and shortages. This has sometimes resulted in double or triple the amount previously. Regarding florals, there is a global shortage of varieties and a significant increase in cost. As a result, this is leading clients to settle for what florals are available and does not allow flexibility for specific visions.
Do you have any predictions for 2023?
- The number of live events are going to decrease due to the production cost and labour shortage.
- In-person and virtual events will be popular, but hybrid won’t make a comeback because it is too expensive.
- Bookings will be robust and made far in advance due to the venue shortage and backlog of event bookings.
- Change in hotels: you can’t book a ballroom for a gala only now because you will have to book guest rooms with it.
- Caterer/food prices will be increasing and possibly pricing themselves out of the market.
- Social media aspect is still involved and will continue to be included as events are a means of connection.