By Tim Simpson on 5/27/21 9:56 AM
It’s everyone’s favorite question right now — “What are your other clients doing?” and I know you really want me to give you the answer. But the truth is, they're all asking the same exact question you are!
Isn’t there something a little off about that? That everyone is looking to everyone else for the answer?
There is no “one size fits all” answer because every organization — their culture, their customers, their competitors, their people, their audiences — are uniquely their own. If there's one thing I've learned, it’s that no two are ever the same! Sure, you can learn from others, but in the face of so much change, “best practices” are massively overrated.
In the space of Human to Human (H2H), there is no room for doing what everyone else is — or at least there shouldn’t be. Events, no matter the medium, are bringing real living and breathing people together around a common purpose. The real opportunity isn’t playing catch-up with others, it’s finding unique ways to deliver for your audience.
Let’s come back to that in a bit …
Reimagine the Possibilities
Years ago, I made a life decision to invest myself and my career in the space of H2H. You could say I reinvented myself — leaving a multi-corporate marketing position to join Design Studio, by Maritz Global Events because I believe H2H is the future, and only the face-to-face (F2F) medium can be transformative. That’s where real differences get made in the lives of people.
I joined Design Studio because I saw an opportunity to help shape and mold the future of H2H and the F2F channel, and in doing so, I’d get to help countless organizations more richly, deeply connect with the PEOPLE who trust and rely on them.
Now, amid or after the pandemic — however you want to label this “time” we are in — I find myself fired up by the new possibilities of reimagining how organizations build and maintain community and how they can get more from the F2F channel by leveraging digital for what it is best at. Now is the opportunity to lean in heavily on the lessons we were forced to learn over the last year and USE THEM!
There was always going to be a moment that “broke” the status quo, and that moment is now. Status quo is dead. It is time to rectify that for yourself.
What Does the New Landscape of F2F Look Like?
We are at a time where two channels — Digital and F2F — have finally and forever collided. Fact is, both will absolutely need to be integrated into your event experiences in order to deliver what your people, your audiences and guests, are really going to want.
And what do they want? It matters to understand this, but right now maybe what matters more is creating the WANT they didn’t even know they had or needed.
Would you find that in asking the question, “What is everyone else doing?”
We could use up dozens of blog posts writing about the confluence of F2F and Digital and what that means for the future of events and how this will change experience design in the space — plenty of others have done that already. For the sake of putting a stake in the ground in that conversation, here it goes ... the best scenario will be having F2F and Digital work in a symbiotic way that allows you to deliver the greatest value for the people you are designing for.
That’s it. It’s all about people, and if you think you can deliver what your audience really wants by asking what others are doing, I would assert you have already caught the Status Quo Syndrome.
How many of your in-person events support your organization’s strategic framework? How many breakouts fail to connect because they are more like sermons? What are the pieces of your F2F that fail to deliver connection and community? You can transfer F2F elements of your event to the digital dimension, where they can offer extended, richer content to a larger audience in an appropriate setting.
The new landscape moves the emphasis where it belongs. The new landscape is eco conscious and experience rich. It’s smart, savvy and independent. The new landscape knows no limits.
Break It to Fix It
If you're wondering what to do next, you’re on the right track! Asking too many questions, shaking things up, looking at things from an alternative point of view can start you down a path paved in more uncertainty than answers, but it’s right where you should be!
Whether you pull in a third party or just start bouncing ideas off peers, you can start to reimagine your event portfolio by deconstructing it piece by piece with deep discovery:
- Collect quantifiable elements
- Interview stakeholders and your audience
- Deconstruct your program
- Re-design your strategic portfolio
- Validate and produce
Give up your right to be prideful of what you’ve accomplished in favor of pursuing something even more impactful. Collect your data, surveys, financials, marketing materials, etc. and get a sense of how your event is performing against all the objectives. Does it align with your brand ... Does it fit your budget ... Is your audience enriched?
Next, talk to those impacted by the event directly — stakeholders and your guests. How does the audience feel? Is the event meeting their evolving needs?
We are learning that guest expectations are changing. Values are changing. Once you have all the pieces, you have to start to take your event apart and then slowly put it back together again — measuring each new piece against what you’ve discovered to ensure your event underpins your brand as a whole.
When you find yourself asking what everyone else is doing, take a step back and ask yourself, why are we doing this? Let the questions guide your journey. And if you aren’t asking any questions, maybe you should be. You’ll have to do the hard work to get there. We would love to help you dig in and rethink your portfolio because we really do believe in the transformative power of F2F.
Now, back to where we left off in the beginning of this post. The real question you should be asking is: How is our event portfolio supporting our business objectives while providing the real value our people desire? That’s where we come in. Once you start asking the right questions, we can help you get there.
Ready to rethink your portfolio? Reach out to us for a quick consultation (it's free!)
Tim Simpson is Design Studio's Brand & Engagement Chief Strategist. The cornerstone of Tim’s career has been his ability to create transformational experiences for brands of all types.