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"We Perfected Obsolescence..."

I recently heard a very senior association executive (and board member) say this about their annual meeting. The executive went on to tell me they sold their event due to market forces and competitive pressures that made it too much of a financial liability to continue to operate it as a standalone association event.

In its day, this event was the gold standard for the industry it represented. A vibrant expo hall, crowded education sessions, a waiting list of sponsors and true marketplace buzz that made it the must-attend industry event.

The phrase “perfecting obsolescence” really rang true to me as I think about the term I often use, “better sameness,” which is the path to perfecting a model that becomes irrelevant because the world around the event changes faster than the event. The best “camcorder” is no match for a mobile phone with a 12-megapixel lens.

The bottom line is, the standard model for association and nonprofit meetings and trade shows is being redefined. Staying the course and using the same playbook is the biggest risk that event designers and association executives can take.

Having the best ice tray in an era of automated ice makers; or the most accurate watch at a time when we use our phones to meet this need; or perfecting a trade show floor as hosted buyer meetings are taking over is what perfecting obsolescence is all about.

Ask yourself this question: If you had a stop motion camera photograph your annual event over the past 10 years, how different would it be?

Now is a great time to step back, examine your event planning process, your desired outcomes and the recipe you are following and see if you’re perfecting a model that was effective in 2010. It may need a makeover in 2020.

It doesn’t hurt to have a fresh pair of eyes look at your process, your results and your goals and help you see what’s possible. We are all prisoners of our own success and experiences.2020 is a good year to look through a new lens and see what the future can hold for you and your most important asset—your annual meeting.

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