November 9, 2020
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Crisis = Danger or Opportunity?

How you answer this speaks to the lens through which you see the future in 2021.

This post is a continuation of a series of insights to help decision-makers determine how to navigate, allocate resources, mitigate risks and exploit opportunities for 2021. I've focused specifically on rebuilding revenue and generating the necessary operating income from events, annual meetings, and trade shows.

By all accounts, 2021 will be a more challenging year than we have experienced over these past eight months.

The combined factors about which none of us need reminding, will lead to the continued inability for event audiences to gather on a large scale in 2021. It looks like it could be a year of crisis even greater than we’ve experienced in 2020.

When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity. John F. Kennedy is most widely known for having popularized this insight in the early 1960s.

Without a vaccine distributed to the majority of the population and an effective treatment plan for COVID-19, our country won’t be fully stable until 2022 at the earliest. Like you, I hope we get there faster, but that seems unlikely as I write this.

So, 2021: danger or opportunity?

Let’s look at three specific areas that will impact your 2021 event and decide where the danger and opportunity lie.

  1. Large crowds won’t be able to gather at business events and trade shows.
  2. To date, virtual trade shows haven’t been sufficiently successful and, if continued as they are, won’t meet 2021 financial objectives.
  3. Audience expectations for virtual events are changing faster than event organizers can adapt.

First, here are a few of the dangers that a crisis in 2021 will present.

  • Attempting to host an in-person event and having a far smaller audience show up than planned, is a lose, lose, lose scenario. You, your suppliers, and those that do attend will be in worse shape than if you had no event at all. Remember, people who register in advance at a discount rate or for free, often say one thing and do another.
  • Travel plans, corporate policies, and location restrictions are coming fast and furious, and there is no certainty about who will issue them and when. Planning for anything in person prior to Q4 presents major risk.
  • The opportunity costs of waiting for more information to decide to host a virtual event or trade show are monumental. Delays result in higher cost, rush charges, and premium pricing by vendors who  have limited capacity. And marketing to attract your audience needs to start much sooner than in pre-COVID-19 days.

Three of the opportunities presented by a more substantial crisis in 2021 are:

  • The option to buy a competitor’s event at a highly discounted price. Mergers and acquisitions in 2021 will be active for those of you with funding and ambition.
  • We now have close to a years’ worth of best practices and a long list of what to do and not do. Your 2021 event or trade show can be exceptional if you don't attempt to reinvent the wheel.
  • By committing to a first-class virtual event and trade show that is indispensable, profitable, and scalable, you set your organization up for success in 2022.

Danger or opportunity? As always, a crisis is a period of uncertainty, confusion, and risk. Fortunately, there are leaders like you who step into the void, weigh the evidence, make the decision, and lead your organization forward. Making the decision and investing accordingly in an incredibly successful virtual trade show is the lowest-risk option and the greatest opportunity.

Don Neal

Founder & CEO

360 Live Media

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