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The One Thing Every Association Must Do Now


This article originally appeared on PCMA.

The Latin origin of the word “decide” is to “cut off.” To decide is to determine what not to do. It’s time to cut off the debate, the delay, and the paralysis of how to rebuild your event, conference, and trade-show portfolio for the new year.

There are four factors holding most organizations back and delaying the decision to act. See if these sound familiar and consider these recommendations for moving forward.

  1. In-person vs. virtual vs. hybrid — What’s the right model for us? With so many variables to consider and with so much uncertainty, what is a meeting planner or a senior association executive to do?
    Plan on a fully virtual event from now through the end of June 2021. Could there be an opening for some in-person element to your event? Yes. Is it worth investing in and delaying the decision? No. If your event or trade show is scheduled for Q3, plan on a broadcast with a 25-percent in-person studio production. And if it’s scheduled for Q4 2021 and later — with the proviso that we have a fully distributed vaccine in North America and beyond — you should consider a full in-person event with a complementary digital offering.
  1. The right economic model — It’s the question every nonprofit is asking: How do we make enough money on a virtual event to sustain us?
    Recommendation: Implement a virtual hosted-buyer model. It will give your audience and suppliers the opportunity to do business and ensure your organization achieves a better ROI for your event or trade show. There are a number of new ways to make virtual events profitable. For starters, make them must-watch TV, more entertaining, more enjoyable, more fun, and shorter in length. This way you’ll keep your audience longer, and they will be more willing to engage with industry suppliers. Next step is to teach your suppliers through training videos how to host better demonstrations, be more consultative and offer more value than was the norm at most trade shows.
  2. Event design strategy and technology platform selection — You’d never remodel your house without a good blueprint. Perhaps you’d even hire an architect to make sure your design was structurally sound and that it delivered on your objectives. So too with your events. Don’t let the tech platform determine what you do.
    Recommendation: Think like a design/build event architect. Talk to your peer group and learn from them what is working. For example, if interaction is a critical element of your event, figure out whether you want to include gamification, contests, and/or polling to your event in addition to chat and Q&A features. Don’t select a platform first and then be restricted by its capabilities.
  3. Acquiring and leveraging the best talent, ideas, and resources — We are in the era of doing more with less. Every organization is grappling with how to best make 2021 a success while working remotely, identifying and acquiring the new skills necessary, and making the time to get it all done.
    Recommendation: Insourcing. Invest in hiring the expertise and expanded bandwidth you need to get it all done and use this period to level-up the skills of your internal team. Use the increased revenue from your successful 2021 events to rehire the best people who may have been furloughed and rebuild your team. Think of this as the era of “rent-to-own,” meaning you rent the skills and expertise using outside consultants and experts who agree that they will train the internal team to build these new skills

There is so much opportunity and sometimes it hard to see what’s possible until you decide to act. You will never have enough information or a perfect set of facts. Delay and debate reduces your planning time, adds cost, and diminishes the quality of the end result. To decide is to liberate, to unlock, and to enable creativity.

Don Neal

Founder & CEO

360 Live Media

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