Sheldon Senek joined Eagles Talent in 2008 and, in 2019, he became its president. His primary focus includes running both the speakers bureau and the speaker management division. He served as president of IASB (International Association of Speakers Bureaus). Prior to Eagles Talent, he spent a decade working at Dramatists Play Service, Inc., a leading theatrical publishing company. Visit EaglesTalent.com
I was an attendee in a fantastic session recently led by a top keynote speaker Phil M. Jones as he presented for an industry association (International Association of Speakers Bureaus) to which I belong. He really lit a spark for me, comparing the way we used to approach the events in our business and, because of the way the meetings industry has shifted to virtual from the COVID-19 pandemic, how we can reframe the way we do business in the future.
I should note that the association that provided this session was supposed to hold our annual event this past spring. Like so many reading this, who knows how long it will be before we all meet in person, comfortably, for a large convention. Like everyone else, I watch the news and get so many conflicting messages that I feel like a yo-yo.
What struck me during that session, though, was that our association thought it was important enough, even with the annual conference being canceled, that we still were given value to help our businesses. After all, I’m still working, our company is still running, and we have clients in the same position.
Organizations Shouldn’t Wait
That leads me to this question, as there have been a number of conferences, conventions and meetings postponed and/or canceled: Should organizations wait six months, or a year or more to help provide value to their members/teams to achieve business success? On top of that, the time span could be longer as some companies that postponed through December are now looking to postpone yet again.
At a time where there is a real need for guidance, innovation, motivation, leadership, diversity/inclusion, etc., isn’t it important that members get strategies and insight to help navigate their company to grow? Let’s put it another way, how disappointed might members/team be if they don’t have value between now to possibly a year from now — or who knows when since there is so much uncertainty with F2F meetings?
Events Inspire Ideas
As another example, I viewed Phil Hansen, who did a virtual presentation on working with limitations and a systematic approach to innovation and creativity. This gave me a whole new thinking of some possible innovations our company can develop internally as well as externally — how we can better help our clients. Our company is not dissimilar to any other company, meaning, we, too, need outside ideas to help us.
With both of these presenters, I walked away with actionable items that
I will use to help our company and team during this time and build for the future. Frankly, this is what clients are craving right now. Some of them are stuck between a rock an a hard place because they aren’t sure if or how to make the transition to virtual — whether it’s because of knowledge or fear of their member’s buy in. Some have even said, “We’re an in-person kind of group and virtual just isn’t the same.” You know what? They’re right; it isn’t the same.
For groups that are postponing their event and moving it to a future date, it’s understandable — you’re not able to have an in-person meeting. That is a fact. But how do you solve the challenge of your members getting proven, outside ideas/education to help innovate and deal with limitations in your own industry?
Aside from the importance of networking, what is the most important part of the conference? It’s not the chicken or vegetables that’s served for dinner, it’s the content. On top of that, of all the components within a meeting — hotel, food, A/V, staff, etc. — the presenter is the most flexible part (both in-person and virtual). We realize that the traditional keynote and conference as we knew it might be on hold. However, what is not on hold are solutions.
Our strategies have shifted here in our company as I’m sure yours has as well. We’re thinking outside the box as much as possible — to better understand how you are connecting with your members (for corporate and associations). Are you doing a series of large virtual hangouts, focused on management or sales meetings, or virtual happy hours? Maybe the presenter no longer fits for a keynote because your conference is on hold, but what about four sessions over the course of four weeks? What about a pre-recorded message or short live presentation to jump-start ideas for your next internal meeting? What about a message of inspiration for your clients/members (like a motivational Monday)? The options and solutions are endless.
Nothing is the Same
Meeting professionals who are putting together meetings, are no longer doing what they used to — none of us are. Everyone understands all of our jobs are on the line — our companies are on the line. That’s why value and innovation is more important than ever before.
We all have to reframe the conversations. If we’re only talking about your in-person event that may or may not take place in early 2021, we all focused on the wrong thing. Your role as a meeting professional is more than providing an experience, you must provide value for the members — and, on our end, we’re here to provide insight and secure value that’s right for your members. Once either of us stops doing that, there is no longer a use. But neither of us are stopping.
We had a client say, “We’re not moving the conference from in person to virtual — not because of value — but because our members wouldn’t sit for 45 minutes in front of a screen watching a presenter.” I don’t blame them, so, we changed the conversation to, “How long would they sit for?” The reply “Well, 25 minutes would be perfect.”
While the other parts of the event industry are uncertain, let’s bring clarity and provide value to your members/team. After all, there was a reason you were interested in a presenter for your in-person event, right? Your hope — as well as your organization’s — and expectation for results remains. Your members need it. | AC&F |