The answer? No one knows. Each country has a different approach and its own specific rules regarding public gatherings and travel. What no one can account for is how quickly consumer demand will resume once we emerge from this crisis, or how long it will take for people to feel comfortable with attending large gathering events or even travelling.
Plenty of articles have been published on the need to use this time to strategise and plan for the future. Will virtual events become the new norm? How do we incorporate these solutions into our offerings and how do you monetise these platforms?
The main problem I see in this approach, and from everything I've read thus far, is that we are looking at it the wrong way round. We have a situation of the 'tail wagging the dog'. If someone comes to your house to do renovations, would you care if he asked you which hammer he should use?
Rather than comparing solutions and looking at 'quick fixes' to generate revenue, we should start by going back to what the core of our business is and ask why it is, and will remain, relevant for audiences in the future. From there, you can start to look at what solutions are the best fit for your needs
In Simon Sinek's book Start with Why, he goes into a lot of detail regarding this. In the book, he has an illustration which shows three concentric circles. In the middle is 'Why', then one level out 'How' and the last level is 'What'.
In the book, Sinek argues that all businesses need to start with understanding what their 'Why' is. Why are they in business and why are their products and services relevant? Once you understand this, you can focus on the 'How' and 'What' in terms of execution. Unfortunately, most companies take an 'outside-in' approach. Starting with looking at their processes, how they do business, etc. This is all before they have clearly defined 'Why' they are in the business in the first place.
For the events industry, we should be asking questions around the 'Why' and how this will change post-Covid. Only then can we start to look at which solutions we should consider, what marketing channels we use, which venues will be most appropriate, and all the other considerations.
All companies have mission and vision statements, but these need to be adapted over time. Also, how many of their employees actually know what the company's mission statement and vision is? How many actually buy into and believe in these statements?
What companies need to do is use the opportunity to re-clarify what their 'Why' is. Why are we in business? Why are our events relevant for exhibitors? Why are they relevant for visitors? I've talked about this extensively in the past. I think, as an industry, there was a degree of complacency that built up over time.
Every year events took place. We made minor adjustments to our content, operational aspects, marketing plans, etc. These were considered as major 'strategic' steps but, in reality, they were tactical changes that, although adding value to the events, were not significant shifts in thinking.
I believe the need for us to partner with strategic suppliers, other organisers and key stakeholders will be absolutely key coming out of this. We should find ways to put our differences aside and work together to ensure we all understand our 'Why', as an industry, and can work together to ensure the sustainability of our industry post-Covid.