2020: We Didn't Fail. It Was a Learning Experience
It's an understatement to say that by many measures, this was an unusual and challenging year for us all. However, to be fair, I watched some TV series that I would never have considered and hope to never see again. Especially if they involve "big cats."
How many live events were canceled in 2020 and will not be held even through the first part of 2021? On a personal level, we all know people, friends and colleagues who lost jobs. Even worse, there is a high likelihood that a great many of us have personally suffered financial loss, even if we were fortunate to maintain employment.
Our commercial areas, filled with closed restaurants and retailers, especially small-business owners, are reminders of what we've lost and may never experience again. We are painfully undergoing business disruption, not necessarily the way we would want, on an unprecedented scale. However, my therapist friends who practice family counseling or family law share that they are doing “better than ever," and then, with a knowing nod, offer me a business card.
The pandemic battered our worldwide industry. Our inability to manage, plan and implement events for our clients impacted millions of people's financial well-being and contributed to pressure on economies, from local to national, across the globe.
Still with me? I'm glad because there is good news.
We Did Not Fail – We Learned and Adapted
These were not our failures, although they are our challenges to overcome. And in many ways, we responded with creativity, energy and an ability to adapt.
I have a friend who has planned and held events for his learning and coaching business for twenty+ years. His first live events might attract 200 executives investing in his programs. In 2019, he was attracting 1,000+ attendees to his business conferences. Smaller events were held internationally as well. Exceptional thought-leaders and proprietary programs drew attendees, and dates were already locked in for 2020 and 2021.
By late March, it was apparent that the upcoming May conference, with paid registrations already exceeding 1,000 businesspeople, mostly executives from growth companies, would be canceled. The event planned for October was also looking shaky.
They pivoted quickly. My upcoming book, The Chutzpah Advantage, identifies this behavior as carpe diem – seize the day, grab the opportunity.
It was an opportunity they hadn't pursued or even imagined the same way previously. Although they had recently started providing an online option for colleagues of live attendees, a completely virtual conference posed new challenges.
It wasn't the two-day conference they had envisioned, but the 2+ hour replacement, with some of the same keynote speakers, drew over 2,000 registered and paying attendees. Lower registration pricing for attendees, offset by doubling the registered attendees and substituting a virtual program's lower cost versus two days in a hotel and related conference expenses, led to a successful and profitable event.
Necessity and Invention
I know that it has been challenging for many of us to adapt our business model, which is based on in-person events and exhibit halls filled with vendors and their new offerings. As the proverb says, "necessity is the mother of invention."
This year has caused turmoil, but it has also led to the introduction of new virtual and hybrid solutions for our clients and us. We have adopted and implemented new safety protocols related to COVID-19 and successfully reintroduced live events in many states and countries.
Many in our industry have sharpened their sales and program management skills or further developed event planning proficiency through online courses.
On a personal level, in the absence of in-person speaking engagements, I wrote the book that had been in my head, and partially on-stage, for several years.
As an industry, as professionals dedicated to our services and clients, we learned. And 2021 will be all the better because of it.