Dig deep and start with your assumptions

August 4, 2020
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2020 is the year that killed many old business models. Most of the businesses have not realised it yet.

Let’s use business conferences as an example.

They used to be synchronous events where everybody is gathered together in the same place at the same time. You can meet a lot of people in a short period of time. They can be serendipitous encounters, scheduled meetings or ad hoc rendezvous with old friends.

The main value is not the content but the connections. The marketing is focused on the content that provides the context and signals the quality of the event. This attracts the audience. The content is keynote speakers, panels and seminars. It can also be vendor exhibitions and other complementary offerings.

There’s a lot going on in this concept. Certain things are consequences of the nature of the event. Venues are expensive and they need to be reserved early. This determines the capacity and partly the cost structure. The rest follows from there.

What the event organiser needs is not the same thing what the attendees perceive as valuable. There’s no contradiction but alignment needs to be good enough for the event to be considered a success.

For example, the organiser needs to attract the keynote speakers. What is the value they can offer to the speakers? In many cases, it’s not money. It could be valuable connections in the target market the speakers are interested in and providing solutions. They are expecting to get high-level contacts and peer meetings.

After the agenda is in place with highlighted content you can build the rest of the event around it.

Let’s list some of the assumptions for the traditional business model to work.

1) You need to attract the keynote speakers with something valuable to them.

2) A physical venue needs to be suitable for the nature and size of the event. It needs to be available and therefore reserved early on. This sets many limits to the conference.

3) Everything is happening synchronously (IRL) and in the same location.

4) Most of the costs incur before you have certainty of the success of the event (in terms of demand). There are exceptions (such as Nordic Business Forum events where the next event is almost sold out within the 24h of the final day of the latest event) but the rule is that most of the ticket revenues come in a few weeks before the event starts.

Now, enter 2020 and let’s see where we are with realities.

Physical events are not possible. International travel is cumbersome or mere impossible. You may be able to organise a local event with local people but the international audience is not an option en masse.

Google extended its remote working till next summer 2021. Airlines are not expecting volumes to return before 2024, and business travel will not recover to the previous levels at all.

Everybody is zooming and skyping like crazy. Zoom fatigue is real and sitting in your underpants and having a fancy top is not exactly the same kind of meeting experience than lounging in a conference.

What’s the difference between a webinar, a large video conference and an actual seminar/conference in the traditional sense of the word if all of these are carried out remotely?

Everybody is 100 milliseconds away, and so are all the events. The competition is now global. Physical location is irrelevant.

Do you start to see why Wile E. Coyote is running on thin air? Dig deep on your assumptions and your whys. What is the purpose of your business and what is the value customers are perceiving?

It may come as a surprise that your current value proposition may be negative. That’s the real reason why you’re running on thin air without realising it. This is the topic I’m going to explore next.