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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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The Serenity Prayer for 2021 Events

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Every event organizer I speak to, every day is struggling with the single question, “what do we do in 2021?” And for good reason.

Here are a few reasons that fall into the category of things you cannot change or predict:

  • The date of an available vaccine for COVID-19, or when we will reach herd immunity in the U.S.
  • The travel environment, airline and hotel policies, airport restrictions, or any of the other links in the chain required to align for a safe and effective process to attend your in-person event.
  • The degree of confidence and acceptance of risk that the audiences for your events are willing to embrace to attend an in-person gathering, large or small.
  • The changes to insurance coverage and policies your organization holds that will protect you from the liability and risks associated with bringing large groups of people together.
  • And, the travel policies and protections the organizations your audiences work for, that may or may not allow them to travel for business.

Those aren’t the only unknowns, but let’s call this list a good start.

So now what? How do you plan for 2021? Here’s where a small dose of courage comes into play. Start planning. Do something. Get ready and take action. Specifically:

  1. You WILL have virtual events next year; they must be much better than the virtual events you experimented with this year and they must be much more profitable. Acceptance of the fact that virtual events are here to stay and they must be exceptional is step one.
  2. Look at all of your 2021 events in context, not as single occurrences. An event portfolio review is no different than a personal financial review each year—is your portfolio balanced? Do you have events that should be sunset, expanded, reimagined, more profitable, consolidated? Having an integrated approach to planning and executing your 2021 events will save you time and produce an overall better outcome for your organization and your audiences.
  3. Plan for virtual and be ready for in-person. Lead your strategy with a mindset that every event you execute in 2021 will be either fully virtual or blended virtual and in-person. This allows you to overlay all of the events within your portfolio on top of the best technology, ideally a few platforms that meet all of your needs for all of your events. This will result in an economy of scale, better outcomes and lower costs. Don’t reinvent the wheel, build upon what worked this year and stop working with platforms that fell short, were too expensive or lacked the functionality you will need next year.

Fortunately, you can benefit from the wisdom of what we have learned this year and achieve a degree of serenity as you start planning for 2021. You are not alone.

Be bold and decisive as you share your approach with your executive team. Have a clear economic case that’s fully supported by your CFO, and ask her for a consolidated event P&L that allows you to show the wisdom of your integrated event portfolio approach. And get your board on board. If your events in total are more than 25% of your organizations revenue, the board should be asking how are you going to preserve and grow that revenue next year.

As always, if you’d like more ideas or help advancing any of these ideas, please contact me.

We could all use a little more serenity in these times couldn’t we?

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

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