JOMO not FOMO
By Andrea Papini, Marketing Manager, Eventsforce
As he stood bathed in twilight and dust, Kevin Costner’s Ray, ‘Field of Dreams’ 1989, hears a voice in the wind, ‘If you build it, they will come’. The fact that this is a misquote of W. P. Kinsella who actually said, ‘If you build it, he will come’ is not important.
Costner built his dream, and it was a success. But real life is often far removed from Hollywood. In a commercial setting we need more than just voices in the wind to justify expenditure, demonstrate ROI and pragmatically prove that we can do our jobs.
How does this relate to event planning? Well, for many months now you will have seen the events industry talking above all else about the return of in-person, pivoting back to in-person, the adoption of hybrid, and moving forward with renewed optimism. Event tech suppliers are certainly optimistic, as are those managing trade shows, conferences and exhibitions. If you prick us, we will bleed optimism. Another misquote, this time William Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’.
There’s no lack of advice about the return to in-person. What tech to use. How to manage your events. Health and safety. The list goes on. Occasionally there is a nod to the changing world we live in post-covid. ‘We must give people a reason to turn up.’ And the answer to this is a few words about engaging content, appealing to their inner FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
And in 4 letters we encapsulate the problem. FOMO. We assume that people are afraid of missing out, and this alone will bring them to our events. Is this right? Even before covid, event planners were never short of information; websites, webinars, eBooks, demos, peer reviews, case studies, testimonials. Great, your events offer ‘educational sessions’ but are these sessions offering anything that can’t be found by a quick google search? Are they actually helping people do their jobs, offering detailed advice, and engaging them in conversation? Or is the speaking slot now seen as an opportunity to raise extra revenue for the organiser and to sell tickets, not to ultimately provide benefit for the delegate? Once the slot is sold, is there really any sort of quality control on what is delivered? Or am I being cynical?
At a recent event I attended, there were many theatres, a full programme of speakers, but many only offering the most basic of advice. Apparently, you really can teach a grandmother to suck eggs. Where is the differentiation, and where is the added value? And here’s a bonus tip for event planners; the art of Stand Management isn’t dead. You’ve done the clever marketing, paid for the expensive stand and committed a considerable amount of time to the exhibition. Don’t ruin it all with staff who clearly don’t want to be there. It’s never a good look to talk to delegates sitting down whilst they stand, and even worse, to outright ignore them, talk to each other or spend the whole day on smartphones or laptops! I come to network and communicate – please don’t ignore me!
As event planners our second sin, after our over-inflated belief in the quality of our content, is failing to recognise we now live in a different world. Pre-covid, the odd working from home day was seen as a treat, but the rest of the week you could bet that nearly everyone was on that hot, packed tube, delayed train, or in their car stuck in traffic, all making their way to the office. Now, it’s all changed. Alarms go off at 8:45 to start work at 9am. There are no more 2-hour commutes. Business dress stays in the cupboard gathering dust. Life is very different.
So, in 2022, if you want people to leave their homes, stress about what to wear and how to get to your event, and then consume information they can’t readily find online, event planners really need to think about their content, sessions and event promotion. Attendees need to fully understand how they will benefit from attending, and this messaging needs to be consistent across all your communication channels. Pay attention to the speaking programme and what is being delivered.
Your responsibility for the session doesn’t end when it is sold. Work with your speakers to ensure your delegates get value for money, and value for time. And most importantly, don’t assume everyone has FOMO. These days it’s most likely to be JOMO; and if you don’t know what this is, a quick Google will enlighten you…
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