Intelligent insights and a thought exercise for event planners from our guest blogger Sanjib Kalita, a serial entrepreneur in the tech and events space.
What’s tomorrow like? The simple answer is: “tomorrow will be similar to today”. For the most part, that would be true. While change is constantly occurring, it’s hard to see in our day-to-day lives and easier to change over the long-term.
It’s also difficult to figure out what to look at when answering the question? Is it weather, news, customer preferences or something else that you should focus on?
Things driven by physical constraints, like weather, change gradually and are often coupled with dampening effects that limit variation. Things like news and customer preferences are driven by abstract constraints like thought and imagination, which can change more dramatically. When answering “What’s tomorrow like?” for something with physical constraints, it’s much easier to develop a set of possibilities, whereas for something with abstract constraints, it’s a much more difficult task.
The implications of this simple thought exercise are massive for the events industry. Live events are filled with physical limitations, such as, how big is an event space? How much time do you have it for? What will the food and beverage situation look like? Who can travel to the event to speak, exhibit or attend? Physical limitations are often the tail that wags the dog.
Event planners often begin with these questions when designing their next event, at least in the physical world. Physical constraints in event planning are often like weather – there is some change, but day-to-day, there is a limited amount of variation.
Unfortunately, this results in incremental innovation in the industry. We default to what happened last year and make minor adjustments.
But last year’s disruptions have shifted the playing field. Physical events are now constrained by how many people are able to or willing to gather in one space. They are constrained by borders that are more difficult to cross. They are constrained by less flexible supply chains that have a more difficult time delivering physical experiences. In response, the events industry dove into virtual events last year.
Virtual events still have physical constraints, such as bandwidth, screen specs, language and schedules, but increasingly you’ll find the constraints will be driven by imagination and thought. What is the user experience of the virtual event? What elements of interactivity and audience engagement will you provide? What content can you deliver within the technical specifications? How fun is it?
While all of these questions still exist in physical events, they were often secondary to other considerations. In the parlance of events, former track sessions have now taken the keynote stage.
What are the key questions you and your team need to answer before a physical event? When building a virtual event, which of these questions become less important and which become more important? What knowledge and networks will you need to answer these questions?
We also need to make a sober and unfiltered assessment of the state of the world. Is what you’d like to create truly needed? How can you deliver to what the market needs – and is it reasonable to do so in acceptable time and budget?
Having worked in companies large and small, across industries and geographies for many years, I recognize that saying that tomorrow will be like today is a safe answer. But I submit to you that this is not a time for safe answers.
Anyone who says they know the answer to this question is either lying or hopelessly deluded. Now is a time to look at the constraints of thought and imagination. Now is a time to build new knowledge and networks. Now is a time to experiment to build what tomorrow will be.
Sanjib Kalita is the Founder & CEO of Guppy, a fintech startup focused on credit data control and quality. He is also Editor in Chief at Money20/20, a fintech & financial services event business.