Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across the usual end-of-year lists of event trends. Everybody with something to sell has one. I even thought of making one up myself.
Some lists seem more relevant than others; some more ridiculous than others. But not so ridiculous I can’t indulge myself and offer up what I think will be the one most important event trend of next year: Volatility and anxiety.
In the places where you least expect it, there will be surprises, and even where there isn’t a surprise, there will be the anticipation that one is just around the corner.
If your customers and business associates aren’t telling you they’re anxious about the economy and the business climate in the near future, you’re just not listening to them.
Talk about tariffs, the odd items disappearing from store shelves without explanation, the slowdown in business investment, the increasing mistrust of institutions and the questions about stability at the highest levels of government…it’s got everybody nervous, even if you don’t want to admit it.
And it will affect your business.
Last week, Emerald Expositions announced it was just flat canceling next year’s Interbike International Expo and made no bones about why. Emerald Sport Group’s Executive Vice President Darrell Denny admitted, “The past four years have been difficult for the U.S. bicycle market.”
Add to that anticipated increases in bike-related tariffs, consolidation in the market and overall declines in margins and you’ve got some real anxiety to deal with.
The Q3 CEIR Total Index showed a modest increase of 1 percent and the number of exhibitors grew by a scant one-tenth of 1 percent.
Face it, something’s happening here. Those players with substantial portfolios – the Reeds and Deutsche Messe’s and Emeralds of the world – are buttoning up the hatches for the long haul.
On the supplier side, every well-established independent that can is looking for somebody to acquire it. After 41 years in business, the well-known marketing firm mdg announced it was being bought by Freeman.
How can you deal with volatility and anxiety in the coming year if you don’t have a portfolio big enough you can abandon the weak spots, or a buyer looking to snap you up?
Brace yourself. Anticipate you’re going to have to find enhanced value somewhere to offer your most loyal sponsors. Expect registrations to come in late, so find more reasons you can give attendees to show up. Expect the unexpected.
Identify your core community and figure out how to be more valuable to it than you were this year.
Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at email@example.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.