Pause, Shift, Change, Engage: Calling Time on Repeat Events
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This mantra holds true…except for those working in the events industry. Offering up the new and the fresh is an inherent part of a planner’s job and yet so many are still leaning heavily on serving up the same old experiences to their ever-changing audiences. After three years of disruption, it’s understandable why — when faced with the challenge of change — we’re all falling back into our former routines, but now is the right time for planners to stop, take stock, and finally break free from the old, stale habits that no longer serve them or their audiences.
Why Planners Are Still Falling for the Siren Call of the Familiar
Yet, there’s no denying it: routine — especially in these uncertain times — is comforting. The post-pandemic era is a space in flux; indeed, while live events are making their return felt, hybrid continues to demand its share of consideration from both planners and the audiences they serve. As a professional group, planners have had a very short period of adjustment to this new kind of normal, a place where change is the only constant. No blueprint or schematic exists to guide planners as to how they should interact with their audiences in this new sphere and so old, familiar habits act as a secure mental foothold for event professionals in a continuously changing sector.
It’s worth acknowledging that — due to the changes brought about by the pandemic — the roles once undertaken by planners themselves have in many cases been incorporated into a broader marketing function. This means that the professional knowledge accrued over the years by so many planners within the sector is lost and that — with resources at a premium — it’s now much easier to simply keep repeating those tried-and-tested routines. It’s also worth recognising that planners are notoriously stretched for time and so, from the perspective of efficiency, the repetition of past events is a perfectly understandable practise.
Finally, it’s to say that, in some cases, planners themselves have not acknowledged that the needs and wants of their once well-understood audiences have also changed during the last three years. With the predominance of remote working, planners now find themselves having to compete for attention against the domestic and family lives of their would-be audiences. For some, this sudden change of tack is daunting and so — whether it’s returning again and again to existing event formats or previously used venues and suppliers — it’s understandable why some can’t seem to shake the siren call of the safe and familiar, even if that means serving up the same as last year and risking disengagement from their audiences.
Break Old Habits, Reap the Rewards: The Benefits of Stepping Away from Tired Event Experiences
Stepping away from the known can be a decision fraught with trepidation, anxiety, and even fear, but the benefits of doing so are very much worth the effort. Think: even by making just a slight change to a tried-and-tested routine, a planner not only keeps their event relevant to their target delegates, but also potentially taps into a brand new audience. The first step, of course, is to take the time to understand who your target audience is, what their needs are, and what you — as a planning professional — can offer to get them out of the house and participating in your event. This is precisely why the easy rehashing of tired, old experiences is simply no longer effective or impactful as an event strategy.
From a practical level, your data should be your starting point for a fresh beginning. Whether it’s gleaned via apps, your event management software, a list of past event attendees, etc., any information you have will help you to assess who your audience is, what they want, and how you can best engage with them. During the process, you may even find that you need to create different personas, ones that better jive with the current needs and wants of your audience. Once you’ve thoroughly mined and analysed your data, you can then set to work on overhauling your event strategy, doing so with the total and complete confidence that you know your audience and exactly what they want. It’s worth saying, however, that a new event doesn’t always necessarily have to mean starting entirely from scratch. For example, your basic initial planning documents may still serve you well if you find that making slight adjustments to your event offering is the most efficient and effective way to offer up something completely fresh, new, and engaging.
It’s undeniable: the siren call of a repeat event offers security to many planners looking for stability in an ever-shifting time and space. But it’s a false comfort, for with that supposed sense of safety comes the very real danger of disengagement. Now is the time to look beyond the fear of the unfamiliar and embrace change for all the opportunities it has the potential to bring.
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