Saturday, March 14, 2009

If The Old Model is Broken, What Will Work in its Place?”

If The Old Model is Broken, What Will Work in its Place?”

As an Events Management company, we're big fans of industries and companies that have faced what the events industry is facing, figured out a way to 're-engineer' themselves and grow to even great heights.Examples such as Domino's Pizza,, Twitter and others certainly have great lessons to learn from.

On the other hand, it's also intriguing to watch an industry re-invent itself right in front of our eyes, much like what's going on with the traditional media and newspaper industry, the venture capital markets, the auto and financial industry and so many others, today.

In a post on the Steve Mays blog, he writes about an article authored by Clay Shirky: "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable". Shirky provides some intriguing insights that significantly parallel the events industry of today.

Below, excerpts from his article edited with an events focus (our edits are in parenthesis).

"If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for (events) to replace the one the (economy and need for efficiencies) just broke."

"With the old economics destroyed, (practices) perfected for (an era of big budgets) have to be replaced with (those) optimized for a new era both economically and digitally. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about an (events) industry, because the core problem (events) solve — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of (meeting people and engaging with them) — has stopped being a problem."

"When someone demands to be told how we are going to (revitalize the events industry), they are really demanding to be told:
  • that we are not living through a revolution,
  • that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place,
  • that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril,
  • that core institutions will be spared,
  • that new methods of (meeting and engaging) will improve the previous practices rather than upend them.
In essence, they're demanding to be lied to.

For the events industry to weather this current storm, learn the necessary lessons from it and to once again thrive, initiatives like "Keep America Meeting" are good first steps. But, they're stop gap and certainly won't be enough; making the same argument over and over again is insanity.

Why? Because the events industry won't ever look like it once did. Improved ROIs will have to be there, true engagement will have to be there, events will have to transform from 3 day events to year-long sources of opportunity and the costs, that's all going to have to change.

For those of us ready for this change, the future looks bright. For those stuck in the 'old way', the march of the dinosaur's has already begun.

Rather than a clarion call or siren's song, what we're hearing in the wind is our clients telling us that we're going to have to be better for them and for the future of us.

Those that are ready to answer that call are what the future of the events industry will be.

In our next series of posts, we'll overview what we've seen work in both the near term as well as for the long term future. The series, titled "Fixing the Problem" will begin on Monday.

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