Updated: Aug 25
With our event industry shutdown, many of us are wondering, what should I do now? And then what can I do next??
What we know
We know that physical events will not be happening for a while*.
What we don’t know is for how long.
And that is what can provide us with the most stress, and anxiety. It is human nature to want to know what things mean for us, and what the future holds. So it is important we share our thoughts on what we do know, and start acting on what we can do now, then next.
*What it might look like
While we don’t know exactly how long this shutdown will last, we can get an understanding of what the next month and the next year will look like. We’ve been told it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint and we will be shut down for some time, and then, its likely the unlocking process will be stepped out in reverse of what we rapidly went through during shutdown, only that it will be repeated in a kind of slow-motion replay (in reverse)!
The ‘bump-out’ to the ‘bump in’
As the Head of the World Health Organisation just stated: “the way down is much slower than the way up.
“That means control measures must be lifted slowly, and with control. “It cannot happen all at once”
The natural assumption is that at first, small gatherings will be allowed, then groups, until mass gatherings become possible. And then, first domestic and lastly international travel to and from events will be the last thing to be unlocked.
What we can also assume is that when we start to allow gatherings, this will take 10X longer to unlock these phases than it did to lock them down. So, it will be a slower return to business as usual, than it was to the end life as we knew it.
What to do now?
A lot will be out of our hands, but also, the decisions you make now will help determine how quickly you are up and running again. Such as whether to lock in a target event date and keep working towards that, or you wait to see what is feasible and best when you know more.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each decision and it may be you have no choice given the nature of your event. Your event may need to be held at a certain time of year, have a particular venue available, or access to international guests for example.
There will also be other external factors determining your timeline. Once we come out of this shutdown governments and stakeholders will be risk-averse, so their decisions, and all the associated approvals, will take longer than we may anticipate. And secondly, given our own ‘planning fallacies’, where our natural optimism exceeds the realities, our own efforts to get all the pieces of the puzzle lined up may take longer than we’d hope to get our events relaunched.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure once the green light is given everyone, internally and externally will all hit it hard, and we will be back up and running ASAP. We know that event people get stuff done, and get people to get it done with us, but let’s be conscious of the realities of life.
So my point is, mapping out these scenarios and making decisions at the right times – when you have the right information available – will play a big role in how quickly you bounce back.
How will we bounce back?
It is useful and important to think through what our industry may look like on the other side, to plan and pivot accordingly. And I think this shines a light on the fact that we need to be innovative and proactive in our approach, collaborative with our stakeholders, and resilient, evolving the way we do things, to achieve a desirable future.
The market demand – boom or bubble?
Whilst we don’t have a lot of relevant data to call upon, I think we can look optimistically at relevant tendencies within our markets:
1. People like to come together – it is an inherent human need – and people will want to quench their thirst when we are allowed to gather again. If you ask around your peers, one of the things they are most looking forward to post CV is to physically come together again!
2. People like to support those who suffer adversity, and as most mass movements come from a desire to overcome something that has negatively affected others. We say this in Australia recently with the bush fire-affected communities, and we are feeling it again from those audiences who recognise the pain the event industry (and all the many players) is going through.
With these two powerful influences at play, we may see a surge in demand for our events, especially in the immediate window of opportunity post-shutdown. So it is important you are proactive and ready.
Supply v Demand?
I’m not keen to promote this point as a positive outcome, as it’s not the optimistic thinking I prefer, but it’s likely there will be fewer events on offer immediately post CV until we all regather and rebuild. So if you’re putting an event out there, you may see less competition than you’ve had before. And unfortunately some of our supplier networks, our industry ecosystem will be damaged, so there may be difficulties delivering what we need to, and it will be more important than ever for us to collaborate and support each other.
Physical v Virtual?
The rush to virtual events over the past few weeks will no doubt swing back to more of a balance in the ratio of physical and virtual elements that we offer in our event experiences. How much of your event that will become virtual and online may depend on the type of event, however, there is no doubt this phase will have changed the mix that we offer for good. So it is important we look to innovate and integrate the physical and the digital across our experience design.
Personally, I am a big believer in physical connection and interaction still being the primary driver within events, however, I do agree the digital elements will be more integrated into your interactions than ever before. And this can be a very positive shift if you design the experience correctly. Again, those that get this mix right, leverage the old way and the new ways, will come out winning.
Local v Global?
Again, the design of your event may be determined by the type of your event, but it is likely in the immediate post-shutdown phase, that localised events will be the favourable option. Given travel restrictions are likely to remain in place for some time, thinking local (in terms of physical attendance) may be wise. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have the scale and think global, it may just be the sum of many local events and an online presence that gives you the scale in our near future. So it is important we think and act strategically, designing resilient and scalable event business models.
So, what we can do now?
If there is one thing a room of 100 event people would have in common, it was a lack of time. No shortage of ideas, passion, but not enough time to do all the things we’d like to do. And so, as many of us now have some time, to do the thinking, the planning and the deep work, we MUST make the most of it.
For your organisations, your events, your team, and for you
It’s time for the important stuff
It’s often been difficult to get quality time on thinking and documenting what your core purpose, your mission, values and the strategies are, and to then get these things into our plans, refining the systems and our daily rituals.
It’s always tricky to get us all together at the same time and place, where our attention and energy is in synch. So now is the time, to think it through. And while we may not all be on deck right now, or in the same place, it’s a good time to be doing it.
It’s the right time to spend some time on what your purpose is as an organisation, for your events, and your team.
THE WHY – what is your reason to exist?
And then it’s a great time set some goals – THE WHAT?? – for what the future looks like.
And, in between all that, it is critical to spend quality time RIGHT NOW, on THE HOW, the systems and processes that will a) enable you to fulfil your purpose and b) allow those goals to be achieved.
But what if I don’t have a job!! What can I do RIGHT NOW?
If you’re like the many of us and are actually out of work or on scaled-down hours, I’d encourage you to use this time to go through this process for yourself, to understand how you see yourself, what is important to you, and your systems to get you there.
Your Personal Playbook
You will not rise to the level of your goals, you will fall to the level of your systems.
The brilliance of working from home!
As the story goes, in 1665, Isaac Newton had to work from home when the University of Cambridge shut down due to the Plague. It turned out to be the most productive period of his life as he used that time to develop his most famous theories – and the discovery of gravity. Newton may have those big ideas covered, but who knows what you also might come up with!
It’s a good time to be thinking differently. This is a unique phase in our history, and it may also be in yours.
What will be different? And what will stay the same?
The game any of us are playing right now is trying to predict what the future will look like. What will return to normal? What will be different from what it was? What things that we’ve currently changed ‘during CV’ conditions will be retained?
Human behaviour and the culture of our communities and industries is extremely hard to influence and change, however once changed, it is often maintained. So now that Coronavirus living has forced us to work and do things differently, it’s possible that the new norms will look more like how we live and work now, than what we did ‘Pre CV’.
Our Event Show LIVE special series looks at these questions, to share ideas about what will be different, and what will stay the same? And what we can do now, and next, to make the most of this new way of working and living.
Yes, we have been ‘disrupted’, and its time to ‘pivot’. While the lights are off, the goalposts have shifted, the boundary moved, and the playing field has been turned upside down. Where we all land will be fascinating, and while we are all wondering what will return to normal and what will never be the same, I think it’s important to make sure you come back at least a little bit different!
But I’m not the leader?
Whether you’re an appointed leader in your organisation or not, you can still show leadership in these times, to develop these layers, contributing to the WHY, the HOW and the WHAT. If you’re not empowered to start driving the MISSION or GOALS of your team, the HOW around your systems is an extremely important place to start your contribution.
If not now, then when? If not you, then who??
It’s time to change your game!
We know that we’ve always needed to invest more in our systems, and we know that some things will be different when we come out the other side, so its best to best prepared for this.
If you were struggling before the virus hit, then it’s the time to look at your approach. If you don’t change your processes then you will get the same results – if nothing changes, nothing changes.
And if you were thriving pre virus, it’s even more likely your system needs to evolve, as I’ve always found, growth in organisations brings many challenges, and its always the systems that fail to keep up. So even if you were flying pre virus, this ‘break’ can mean even more to you.
You may know the best methods to develop your systems, but here is one worth considering…
The EXPERIENCE DESIGN option
If you’ve read any of my stuff, you will know I’m a big advocate for a shift in thinking, and working. It all started when I was leading an event agency through a big growth phase, and I became very curious about innovation, and what methods we should be used to manage and enable more growth.
So I explored the thinking that was leading success in other industries, to see how we could apply that in our world of events, and to me, Experience Design provides many of the answers to our challenges, and I have seen that this approach is particularly relevant to what we need right now!
What’s important right now?
1. To take the lead in our new world we will need more INNOVATION in the way we work – and Experience Design allows this, enabling the productive application of our creativity. Enabling us to inspire our audiences, but also making sure its all feasible, and manageable.
2. To do so we need more COLLABORATION in our work – we all want to ‘get out of our silos’ and we know we need to, however, if we keep having the same meetings and running our teams the same way we always have, with the same discussions, documents and tools, then we will get the same stuff. So we need ways of truly working together. In his thorough study of the world great innovators, from Issac Newton to Steve Jobs Biographer Walter Isaacson found that the common element across all the greatest innovations in history have been a product of collaborative energy. More often than not it was not a solo process, as each great innovator made their groundbreaking discoveries through collaboration.
3. Most importantly, the current state of play in most organisations is proof more RESILIENCE is needed in what we create – we need to ensure what we produce is financially viable, and sustainable.
New models for a new era
We have adopted this model to apply in our Experience Design approach, to make sure your events are:
1. Desirable to your AUDIENCES 2. Viable for your TEAM 3. Profitable FINANCIALLY
We need each of these parts to be successful, and working in equal measure.
The 3 parts of success
Firstly if your event doesn’t appeal to your audiences, this is where we need to start. But if your event is desirable to your audiences – and you can get the numbers you need – but your team is disengaged – that’s not manageable for your organisation. Or even if your events are running seamlessly with satisfied audiences – but if they are not profitable, then it’s not sustainable for you.
After all, it is great to host a party, but if everyone has a great time, and your left stressed out, it’s not much fun. And you don’t want to be left paying the bill simply for everyone else to enjoy themselves!
Outputs and Outcomes
We can’t forget the work you do now needs to be of use when we get back up running at 100%. So we need to develop the tools and methods that will give you systems, documents and plans to put into place.
Our Experience Design Playbook brings it all together and makes sure you walk away with the things you can use.