I was talking to a couple of very successful VCs the other day and one of the things I really wanted to find out was what they thought was in store for the economy over the next few years and they were both downright pessimistic. Companies and governments (excluding the Obama stimulus programs) are still cutting spending and unemployment will continue to grow.
When I asked about the travel and events industry three years from now (the timeframe they gave for a recovery) it was not very good. Companies during this time are going to be looking at ROI on travel and events with a whole new interest. With the possible exception of proprietary events and user training, the event industry will probably be nothing like it was in the past. Rob Chaplinsky, Founder of Bridgescale Partners, said “trade shows are so web 1.0, they haven’t really changed for decades. People will still need to get together but the trade show model is going to change just like print [newspapers and magazines].”
So get into the lemonade business and start making something good out of these lemons. This is a great opportunity for people in the events industry—virtual and physical because these economic realities are going to force event and meeting producers (of all types) to adapt, innovate and evolve. I disagree with them somewhat, I don’t think this has to be like the print publishing industry (which is all but dead) because there is a difference…people are still going to need to meet, they can read on the web.
Don’t get me wrong, I think things are going to get pretty bad, especially during the second half of this year for the physical events industry as events run into higher and higher attendance drops. Whereas similar events were reporting 30% drops in the first quarter, now we are hearing of 50 to 65% drops in attendance.
Now is the time to embrace the change and get back to what you do; produce the best event you can for your audience and your business objectives. The good news is that there are virtual event and virtual meeting solutions that you can utilize to augment what you are doing and actually enhance it. The other great news is that if you do, you will become a much sought after event and meeting professional.