Prom Appeals to the Heart – and the Business Brain

Sure, prom is fun and, for many, unforgettable. And amid all the drama and dress decisions, you can glean some valuable insight about innovation, communication, resilience and leadership. Someday when you replace that tux with a boardroom-worthy suit, you may well think back on business lessons from the big dance.Read More

by Diana Drake

You’ve got to love the financial foresight of the class of 2018 students at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, Calif., a town near San Jose in the Silicon Valley. This month, members of the freshman class started selling “A Cup of Poetea,” a $2.99 poetry e-book they created to help finance future events like senior prom and class reunions.

When it comes to prom, money in the bank is definitely a good thing. Tickets, dresses, tuxedos, limos, flowers – the list and the costs go on and on. The industry has been valued in recent years at a more than $2 billion a year business, and growing.

And then you have the popularity of promposals, those often elaborate and creative gestures during which someone asks a potential date to the big dance. A new survey conducted by Visa says that the average promposal costs $324. The poll results suggest that promposals now make up more than a third of the total cost of prom-related expenses, which for the average teen’s family is $919.

The bottom line: prom is fun, colorful, romantic and – expensive. It is an industry in and of itself that effortlessly sweeps many young consumers off their feet. What better time to reflect on money and business? Here are three takeaways to tuck inside your memory box, along with your best selfies and blinged-up wrist corsages:

  1. Embrace innovation. Innovation, or finding ways to better answer ideas that have already been answered and to make an impact, is one of the hottest concepts in the business world today. Prom is a great time to try on your ingenuity and innovation. You’ve probably seen some pretty clever promposals (think ‘cheesy’ prom invite on a pizza pie). You can also consider throwing your creative thinking at prom expenses, rather than your money. We’ve all heard of duct-tape prom dresses (OK, maybe that’s a little extreme), but what about this cool concept: transforming a baseball into a boutonniere. Cut open a baseball with scissors, strip the leather from the ball, and cut the pieces into petals. Roll and layer the “petals” to create a rose, and use a glue gun to secure them together. Just one idea – really, the possibilities are endless when you start to problem solve.
  1. Did you hear me? A lot of attention is focused these days on the value of communication – effective writing and presentation skills that help you connect with the world around you and find success in whatever career you pursue. An important part of strong communicating is to know when to listen. Prom is the ideal time to get caught up in the moment with the drama of pre-prom decisions, and the significance of endings and new beginnings; the utter pressure of this signature event in a teen’s life. If you’re going with a boyfriend or girlfriend, a group of besties or even your cousin, open your ears and your eyes to their experiences, as well as your own. Great leaders are extremely mindful of their surroundings, and know how to actively listen. Read through this Forbes article for a better understanding of why effective listening is a critical business and leadership skill.
  1. The day after. So, how was it? Maybe your prom night is incredible, and maybe not so much. Regardless, life goes on, and so do the opportunities to enjoy, grow and succeed. It’s a good reason not to put all your hopes – and cash – into one big event when so many others will follow. But even if you do and it doesn’t go the way you planned, the day after is a time to start fresh. Think of all those initial public offerings when a private company first sells its stock to the public. So much hype precedes the IPO, and many times the stock does not immediately perform well for investors, only to rebound in the days, weeks and months ahead. In many ways, business is about resilience and perseverance – and knowing that one event, no matter how big, does not define you. For more insight, check out this Knowledge@Wharton audio podcast on leadership and resilience.

Related Links

Conversation Starters

Can you think of any finance and business lessons to take away from your prom experience? Consider some related KWHS Video Glossary terms like budget, partnership, strategy, brand and others. Can you connect your prom experience with those concepts?

Why is innovation so important in today’s business world? Have you relied upon your innovative skills for anything lately? How?

Write about a time when you were a resilient leader. What challenges did you encounter? What did you do to overcome those challenges?

One comment on “Prom Appeals to the Heart – and the Business Brain

  1. Good tips, we’re really connected to things we would not normally worry about in the past, and that’s in the long run distancing who we love.
    Congratulations for the post

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