360 Live Media
360 Live Media is an event strategy and digital marketing agency in Washington, D.C. serving association, professional society, and not-for-profit conferences.
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Winners and Losers

History has shown us the big eat the small, the fast beat the slow, and new business models disrupt the status quo.

Think for a moment about the following industry shifts:

  • Mobile phones all but killed landlines.
  • Video streaming killed video rental.
  • Digital photography killed traditional photographic film.
  • Subscription streaming services are killing cable.


  • TV did not kill radio.
  • The internet did not kill TV.
  • Uber did not kill the auto industry.
  • Airbnb did not kill hotels.

What is unknown today is what will happen to movie theaters, college and university campuses, traditional offices, live sporting events, and – closer to home for us – live business meetings.

The long-term future of live business events will be written over the next 24 months. I see three primary factors influencing this future:

  1. Clarity of purpose around which the event is conceived.
  2. Design thinking that is original and intentional.
  3. A new business model that is economically superior.

Here’s how I see live events prevailing and becoming stronger over the next 24 months.

  • People hire your annual meeting and trade show to do a job. That job has been to buy, sell, shop, advance your career, find a new employer, hire a new employee, publish a paper or give a poster session to get tenure or funding, or get an edge on your competitors. Networking, education, and community building are the wrong words: a new vocabulary is required, and a new purpose-driven approach must be adopted for live events to be indispensable, irresistible, and irreplaceable, given the increased effectiveness of virtual events offered at a fraction of the cost and time commitment. Knowing the real purpose of your event and designing it to do the job your audiences need done is your #1 job.
  • Today’s one-size-fits-all approach for meetings, conferences, and trade shows is designed for scale, mass consumption, and self-directed navigation, which will make it hard to justify attending an event for a delegate who now has new alternatives and options that weigh in favor of not leaving home.Design thinking that is different from meeting planning is required to produce a more intentional experience and more efficient use of time, and a higher-value product will overtake the “we make, you take” model of mass-marketed and produced events. Are you planning your event, or are you designing it? They are not the same thing.
  • The new business model for live business events will resemble what has become the holy grail of the retail sector: omni-channel. Omni-channel is the horizontal business model that delivers a user-controlled experience for how YOU want to shop and buy. By unpacking the awareness, interest, trial, purchase, and retention drivers of the retail process, based on individual consumer preference and behavior, successful retailers blend online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores, direct-mail catalogues, personal shoppers, and e-commerce purchasing to meet their customers where they are. See the parallels? Your live, virtual, local, and online offering requires integration, member-memory technology (CRM), and a blended business model that meets your members (customers) where they are.

The good news is that most of these drivers of success have been pioneered and already exist in other industries.

The spoils of today’s winners will go to the decisive, the risk-takers, and the first-movers who learn from the outside-in and use this crisis to take a more purpose-driven approach, design the new event portfolio across all media channels, and move towards a business model that ties the new realities of our future state into a winning formula.

Are you ready?


Don Neal
Founder & CEO
360 Live Media

Don Neal Headshot

A marketing thought leader, speaker, teacher, and advisor, Don Neal brings his Madison Avenue experience to help organizations see their opportunities in a new light. He is passionate about helping organizations accelerate the trajectory of their success.

Don Neal
Founder & CEO
360 Live Media

Top Resources

Redefine your criteria for success with The 6 Rs—360 Live Media’s trademarked tool to drive and measure growth.

Take your annual meeting, conference or trade show to the next level and build your strategy on The 9 Ps of Event Marketing.

Discover how you can deliver more value to your members with this essential thought piece for association executives.