When you are trying to be an agent of change in planning a conference or trade show (or any event) you will often run into those who are not willing to take risks.
There is a lot of talk in the meetings industry about how to refresh events, but there is also resistance. The desire to shake up your program is often stifled by those with their own agenda or no ability to have a vision. It can often feel like you are running up hill in the mud.
The experience is frustrating and lonely when you are a seeker, especially when you are not sure what you are looking to find.
I spoke to a planner recently who was interested in trying something new (which involved hiring me), but she said decided her organization was not ready to take any risks this year. Her concern was that the regular attendees and her board would not understand the value in making changes to the traditional schedule.
Additionally, she was scared of having a speaker and a topic that was not industry specific or a famous sports hero.
Their event had not yet seen a decline in attendance, but the numbers had been flat for two years. She also felt that the environment had become routine and that people were getting bored. There was a desire to create a more engaging atmosphere and an industry “buzz”, but there was no definition of what that meant. Clearly, nothing would be any different from the past, as she could not make the final decision on her own.
She kept saying she was “hoping” this year would be better (but better than what?).
“Hope” is not a business strategy!
The biggest problem facing this planner was she was acting by herself in seeking ways to uncover options for changes. However, she neither had the support of the planning committee nor could she take any action. She wants to lead the charge for change, but she has no followers and no authority.
Fear will also derail any chance of changes being made. If someone is worried that suggesting new ideas will bring ridicule, or threaten their job security, then they will not take the risk. No risk, no reward.
There needs to be a conscious decision by the whole planning committee to discover options and a commitment to follow through on making changes. No one person can do everything, and without a team that is working toward the same goal, then it will always be easier to recreate the same event from the year before.
The amount of discussion about “changes” in the meetings industry is growing. Everyone is seeking something new, but what is it we are really seeking? What do you think?