Texts, Lies and Videotape
If the title of this post reminds you of the movie with a similar name, I’m talking to you. If not, you should still read it.
First, texts. Texting is at exactly the opposite end of the continuum from what you do for a living. You are in the live, human, face-to-face, authentic, show-me-who-you-are, make-me-feel-I-matter business. Texts are short, conversations are long. Texts are symbolic of efficiency, dialogue is what advances understanding. Texting is about avoiding real interaction, conversation leads to us a new place.
Next, two lies that are propagated about association meetings and trade shows.
Lie #1 – technology makes events better. Technology makes events more efficient. It helps us track, measure, expedite and reduce costs; you know, the stuff that technology does. What it doesn’t do is build real human relationships or make us feel alive; it doesn’t replace a handshake or a hug, and it doesn’t inspire us. Live events are about people, not 0s, 1s, keypads, screens and speed. Meetings should slow us down and give us a minute to think, reflect, internalize and take a minute to get to know someone, not who they say they are on Facebook but who they really are.
Lie #2 – association events should have something for everyone, be a smorgasbord, shopping mall, the Amazon of programming, exhibitors and square footage. Most meeting attendees experience less than 10% of what you offer. Think about it. A three-day event might have 300 hours of “inventory”: hundreds of trade show booths, education sessions, general sessions, meals, tours, parties – the list goes on. I have vowed to stop using the word curated (it’s right up there with artisanal), but I’m in a pinch, so there, I said it. Less really is more. The call for papers approach to education, the miles of trade show booths and the same old keynote speakers. (When does Richard Branson have time to run his empire? He seems to be at every conference in North America.)
Ok, now videotape (wondering how I’d work this in?). Blockbuster thought it was in the videotape business – renting entertainment by having customers drive to the store, rent a tape, pay outrageous late fees and watch the movie when Blockbuster said so. Sounds crazy now, doesn’t it? How do you think about your events? What blind spots do you have? What’s the next Netflix or Hulu that lurks around the corner for you? Are you metaphorically in the videotape business, with meetings and events as your product? Think about it. Few people want to go to a meeting, but they do want an experience. And while there is a lot of chatter about experiences, I wonder how many people in the events industry have read The Experience Economy, one of the finest books ever written on the subject. Dreamforce is an experience, Cisco Live is an experience; Saddleback Church, Bonnaroo, American Girl stores and Disney World are experiences. Of course, you say, they have the money, resources, brands and power to create experiences. But how do you think they got there? Exactly, by creating experiences.
The last Blockbuster closed its doors on January 12, 2014. A cautionary tale – maybe? Ask yourself . . . what can you do today to ensure that you remain relevant. Is there a Netflix lurking around your corner?