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Making Decisions in Uncertain Times

An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Business Meetings and Trade Show Industry

Dear Decision Maker,

Your events in Q1 and Q2 of 2021 will be virtual events.

Your events in Q3 and Q4 of 2021 will be mostly virtual events.

Many of you are holding out hope for in-person or hybrid events – as are we – but the facts don’t agree with us.

Each of us responsible for leading people, managing risk, and navigating through uncertain times is faced with as much adversity, conflicting information, and shifting sands as we have experienced at any point in our career.

Our job is to provide direction, lead with confidence, and mitigate the downside while avoiding the paralysis so many executives are grappling with today.

We are required to make decisions; it comes with the job. So now what?

I’d like to focus on your organization’s 2021 business meetings and trade shows, and provide a framework for decision-making that reflects hundreds of conversations with your peers, emerging best practices, and a distillation of what we know now as we plan for a turbulent 2021.

By studying examples from other domains such as professional sports, retail, commercial events, the medical community, universities, and the travel industry, we have identified trends and confirmed insights, and have landed on five core “truths” that you can use to make decisions and plan for a successful 2021.

  1. Your organization WILL have meetings, conferences, and trade shows in 2021, and they must be exponentially better than what we have collectively delivered and experienced in 2020.
  2. “Better” means more profitable, more effective for your supplier community, shorter, more enjoyable, more entertaining, and better integrated into your organization’s overall media strategy.
  3. Virtual technology is important but should not drive the bus. Strategy drives structure, and technology is the scaffolding of your event structure. Event technology is only 20% of the solution, so select it wisely and focus on strategy first.
  4. Virtual will continue to be the dominant delivery medium for all events in 2021, with live, in-person elements reentering the scene as early as Q4. In-person studios can be implemented earlier but require investment, a smart strategy, and solid integration with the virtual experience.
  5. Business events, Annual Meetings, and Trade Shows are now on-demand, interactive digital broadcasts that resemble the best of an entertaining TV talk show with the educational wow-factor of the Khan Academy and the commercial sizzle of QVC. You need different skills, talent, and tools to make 2021 successful. The days of bootstrapping and experimenting are over. It’s time to level-up.

As always, external factors influence what you must do: the marketplace, your members, your competition, and the environment we are all now living in require us to adjust our positions and rise to the occasion.

As a leader of your organization who must set the direction for the new True North; adopting the above realities and setting the bar high for 2021 is your opportunity to seize.

Please reach out to me directly if you’d like to learn more about how to put these principles into action.

Stay safe,

Don Neal

Founder & CEO

360 Live Media

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