Radical changes in customer behaviour because of external circumstances like coronavirus or new behavioural habits can kill your value proposition almost instantly.
If you are lucky the drop in revenues is vast and quick, and it’s easy to see that things are not working anymore. It’s even worse if you can still think that this is a temporarily hick-up and you’re waiting for the normalcy to return. This is the classic case of losing your business first slowly and then suddenly.
I used business conferences as an example earlier. Let’s continue and focus now on the new reality.
The gut reaction would be to convert your physical conference into a digital one. This sounds logical and easy enough. Book the speakers, put together the rest of the content and then build the even around it using some of the online digital platforms. After all, you still have your audience and a good reputation in the market.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth except your good reputation in the market. You still have it (at least before your first new event).
The fundamental assumptions that worked for physical events are now eroded, and this ruins everything.
First of all, synchronous meetings made sense in physical events. This is not the case anymore. Why should your attendees block time from their calendar and sit at home and watch remotely your conference speakers in real-time? It’s even worse if you’re not in the same time zone or continent.
Asynchronous content is so good. Ask anyone who watches Netflix or HBO. It fits your schedule perfectly. The viewer is in control.
The other aspect of synchronous keynotes, panels or similar arrangements is that they are not too much fun for the viewers. It’s just another zoom-meeting or webinar. You’re still isolated in your remote location and not surrounded by other conference attendees.
The content is a big issue, too. Why should I attend your event when the world is full of top-notch content, and everything is as easily attainable with just a few keystrokes? It might even be free or unbundled from other services, unlike your conference ticket.
This gets worse in regards to your keynote speakers. Now, they have so many options since physical location does not hold them back. If they are really on high-demand this also means that you’re competing with every other party interested to get their limited time as a speaker. Your exotic physical location or other differentiation factors that previously played on your favour are not there anymore.
The situation is the same for attendees. Well-known speakers may have their own audience and distribution channels. They might even give the content for free on their website, Youtube-channel, and like. Or they have monetised their content and are skipping the middlemen altogether and addressing the target audience directly and globally.
How about ad hoc meetings and networking? Clearly, we are not there with digital tools at the moment. Wait a few years and the situation may be different. But that’s too late for your current needs as a conference organiser and your traditional business model.
How about vendor exhibitions and sponsorships? They are not working if the core offering is not in place or working.
As an attendee, it’s relatively simple to realise that I’m not getting as much value from a virtual event than from a physical one if the experience and offering are replicated from the old physical model.
Matchmaking and intros can be valuable. Relevant industry-specific know-how and content can be valuable. Listening to curated inspirational speakers can be valuable. All these things can be done online but differently. Do they require a conference organiser?
That’s the question you need to ask.