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Scenarios, Scenarios, Decisions, Decisions

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

I’ve been speaking with many event people, and many leaders across our industry, and what’s on everyone’s minds is scenario planning.

We are all trying to find the right answers, to make the right decisions. And for many, it’s been as much about working out how to ask the right questions, before we can find the right answers.

Whether it be making decisions about your events, your team, or for yourself, there are no 100% correct ways to make decisions right now, and certainly no absolutely clear answers.

However, what can help us are some principles to guide us, and some models to assist us.

Beginning with the end in mind – for your event and your organisation

As I’ve mentioned before I like to keep things simple, especially in times of uncertainty, and in my experience working across many various events, of different sizes and genres, there are still just 3 key parts to success, and I think this ‘ABC’ should be front of mind when making your decisions.

Will this decision?

a. Attract your AUDIENCE? b. Be achievable for your ORGANISATION? c. Create a profit (or at least be viable) FINANCIALLY?

And whether it be big decisions or the smaller ones, these 3 criteria can be applied as a pretty good place to start when you’re deciding what is right, and what is not a good decision, right now.

How to make decisions?

There are a couple of tried and tested models you might want to apply in your decision-making process – with Decision Trees being a good way to map things out.

Decision Trees are a type of ‘Logic Tree’ that gives some structure to your decision making, helping you unpack the problem and making it easier for you, and your team to visualise your options. The goal of a Decision Tree is to provide you with a few paths to explore toward’s a solution. There are a number of ways of doing this, and it often takes a few versions, but they are a great way to frame your problem and attack the solutions!

I’ve spoken with some events who are working on as many as 25 different scenarios right now, but even with just a few options it can be difficult unpacking your options.

As Lucinda Jenkins from the NSW Government Office for Sport mentioned on the Event Show LIVE last week, these Decision Trees may look more like ‘Question Trees’ right now, but at least it can help you work out what you do, and don’t know.

You can view all the LIVE shows on replay here!

The Pros & Cons

As your trying to make sense of it all, and make the right call, it’s not a bad reminder to go back to the good old tried and trusted ‘pros and cons’ method.

Having a simple list of the positive and negative can actually make things quite obvious and clear.

Cost v Benefit

Putting some numbers in our Decision Trees or Pros v Cons lists is also a great step, to help quantify and add some substance to our process. These efforts can be quite involved, but you can start with some simple ratings or dollar values next to the items.

For example, putting a financial value next to each of the pros and cons, or a risk rating in terms of likelihood and impact can make the process a more robust and meaningful exercise for you and your team.

It may not be an exact science, but it’s will help quantify things, to rank your options, and it will also give you ideas on what type of data you do need to make a well-informed decision. It’s always important to get as much evidence as possible, some science to support the art of decision making.

The ‘Known Knowns’ to the ‘Unknown Unknowns’

I talk a lot about the ‘Known Unknowns’ of events, those things that we know will occur, we are just not sure exactly what it is. And this is a good time to be mapping out all the important and influential ‘Known knows’, through to the ‘Unknown unknowns’!

Confusing as the terms may first sound, this model is actually very effective in classifying some of the risks you face and allowing you to work through each of them.

Known knows are things you are aware may occur, that you have a plan for.

Known unknowns are things that you are aware of, but are not sure how to resolve them.

Unknown knowns are the things your not fully aware of, but you have a plan to resolve them when they arise.

Unknown unknowns are the things you don’t know about, which will take a bit of work to understand, and resolve.

Ideally, what we want to be doing is taking the Unknowns into the Known known categories!

It’s well worth calling these out, and realising the respective risks that are associated with the level of uncertainty (or unknowns) that you may have is a very useful exercise.

[*for more guidance on decision-making models, SUPERTHINKING is a great resource that I tap into when I’m going through my Playbook].

What to do with the data

Once you’ve been through some decision making processes, it’s valuable to create a simple business case, referencing those important ‘end result’ elements, that is, the results that you need to end up with.

A simple framework you can use to capture the state of play is with those 3 key areas of success (or failure) that we outlined at the start – this provides an easy structure to start with.

What effect will this scenario have on?

a. Attracting your AUDIENCE?

b. Being achievable for your ORGANISATION?

c. Creating a profit FINANCIALLY?

Beginning with the end in mind – FOR YOU

It may also be that your thinking through your own life scenarios right now, so in terms of your own decisions, on what you can or can’t achieve right now, I’ve often applied a model that some very smart people came up with, that can determine whether anything* can be achieved.

* ok so that is a bold claim, but I haven’t found anything that doesn’t need each of these 3 things to exist. From day to day stuff like brushing your teeth, to bucket list items like running a marathon, or important stuff like getting that next job, every time, all of these 3 things are needed**.

[**please do let me know if you can think of anything that doesn’t need these 3 things in place!]

1. Motivation – the WILL to do it!

Starting with what is important to you is critical, as when it comes down to it, whatever path you take if it’s not going to be important to you, it’s not worth taking.

2. Capability – CAN you do it? 

It’s fine to be motivated to achieve something, but if you don’t have the capability to do it, it is going to be tough… so it is necessary to fill that capability gap.

3. Opportunity – COULD you do it?

Lastly, while motivation and capability will get you a long way, if the opportunity is not there, it can be impossible to do what it is you want to do. So if you want to achieve anything, such as landing that next job, make sure you identify some actual opportunities that are out there.

Of course, there is a lot more to achieving something within each of these steps, but ensuring you are not missing any of these 3 things will set you up with the potential to succeed.

The 3 elements make up the framework we use in the ‘SURVIVING to THRIVING’ programs – if you’d be interested in exploring that, please just let me know!

What if it all seems too difficult!?

If you can’t see the end you want in mind, it’s essential to get some help. That is non-negotiable, so make sure you do. As if there is one thing that has come from the Coronacrisis, it is event people putting their hands up to help each other out.

Sometimes it is best to wait

I should call out, that there are a few decision making principles that actually call out that sometimes nothing is the best thing to do. When there are too many unknowns, and information is not yet available, it can actually be best to sit and wait.  As always, the right move depends on the situation, but different leadership is required for different scenarios. And sometimes the bravest leadership is to not pretend that you have the answers and to wait until you do.

And sometimes the obstacle is the way

And finally, sometimes the best decision is actually to focus on the very thing that is holding us back. A popular book doing the rounds in Silicon Valley is ‘The Obstacle is the Way’  in which Ryan Holiday basically boils down thousands of years of ‘stoic’ wisdom into a simple formula – of turning adversity into advantage. This mindset can serve us very well and open up many opportunities, as constraints can open up unforeseen options, which is something we will cover next week…

So please stay in touch, but also don’t wait, please reach out today if I can help in any way.


We’ve enjoyed the response to our LIVE sessions in recent weeks, so thanks for joining in if you have, and please do tune in if you can.

I’m conscious these timings or timezones may not suit everyone, with other work, home, and home school commitments, so we will replay the sessions each week – please just follow along and watch the webcast, or listen in to the podcast.

So as your making some decisions and mapping things out, I hope this all helps in some way.

And please do touch base at any time to chat about what’s on your mind.

Take care,


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