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Looking back to move forward: a strong outlook for 2024

By Dan Farrell

December 1, 2023

Dan Farrell

Dan Farrell

Many in the event rental industry entered 2023 with slight hesitation. While most had a successful 2022 and have been on the path to recovering from the impact of the pandemic, there were still workforce concerns and the threat of a recession among all of us. Coming out of a pandemic and making our way through 2023, the event industry seems to be trending upward. We are all learning and growing from what the past few years have taught us. It would appear that the fears of recession are moving to the wayside, the workforce is getting stronger and event professionals are eager to continue growing in 2024.

Along with changes in the economy and workforce, we have also seen the return of large, public events. In the Midwest, we have experienced a strong return of public events with most returning to pre-pandemic schedules and venues. Demand for sporting events, festivals, galas, corporate events and public gatherings remains strong. Weddings and private events also appear to be stabilizing. We have seen the addition of many new wedding planners that started during the high demand post-pandemic era, bringing fresh ideas to the industry.

Though large events have returned, we have seen a slight pullback with corporate sponsorships forcing some larger events to rethink their production budgets and alter their traditional plans. Event organizers in general are faced with rising costs in all areas with limited budgets to execute. It is important for special event professionals to understand that rising production and asset costs will often cause a need for reevaluation of event budgets. With careful planning and a close eye on margins, successful events are executing well and will continue to grow through 2024.

With the return and growth of outdoor social gatherings, tenting remains strong and is in high demand. Vinyl supply chains are finally returning to normal and the backlog of production is easing. For tenting, I see the industry moving closer toward engineered structures as the norm and unique styles of tenting being more in demand. As supply chains open up, new inventory is more accessible. Seating, furniture and high-end tabletop will take a lead in demand. New tabletop and seating has been hard to obtain for a couple of years as well. Now that those supply chains are opening up and event companies are financially recovering, 2024 should see the demand for fresh new product in those areas.

We started 2023 off with a strong focus on developing a workforce pipeline. All indications were there that we would be facing similar challenges and labor shortages that plagued the industry over the past few years. However, as the economy shifted, and others were reducing their workforce, the event industry welcomed the return of a quality labor force. Operations and human resources (HR) teams quickly shifted focus from simply finding people to direct recruiting, training, development and retention. With a strong new workforce it is important that event rental companies take time to train and develop their staff with the latest industry tools.

The event industry has made many advances with safety and installation standards during the pandemic slowdown. The American Rental Association (ARA) has led the way with refreshed training courses and new industry guidelines. It is important that members utilize these tools to set the bar at their companies. The advancements in tent safety remain a top priority of these efforts. Box truck training is another tool that now offers an industry-specific training platform in an area that is used every day in our businesses. Continuous staff training, development and improved workplace culture will all lead to creating the best workforce the event industry has seen in years.

Despite some of the downfalls we have seen over the past few years, the event industry looks forward to a strong coming year.

Dan Farrell is regional vice president of Marquee Event Rentals, Mission, Kan., and the American Rental Association (ARA) Event Rental Shared Interest Group chair.