Why do events fail?
According to Sam North, founder of Inflection Point Coaching & Consulting, one reason is that planners usually wait until the maturity point in an event’s life-cycle before considering any sort of significant change.
Speaking at International Confex, Sam described how organisers ride the upward curve of launching and growing their event but once matured, they’re at greater risk from competitor shows innovating faster and filling gaps in the market with more relevant content.
“By the time many organisers realise their event is about to dip into decline, it’s already too late and the writing is on the wall,” Sam told delegates.
This is certainly true for now extinct exhibitions such as Interbike in America and CeBIT, which once dominated the global technology industry from Hanover in Germany.
Inability to quickly innovate has led to the doom of popular events
At its peak in the Nineties, CeBIT drew over 850,000 people to the Hanover Fairground. With competition from events such as CES and Mobile World Congress in more vibrant and accommodation-rich cities like Las Vegas and Barcelona, CeBIT’s visitor numbers dwindled to just 120,000. When it came to plan the 2019 edition, Deutsche Messe, the show’s organiser was looking a €5 million loss and was forced to pull the plug.
However, it’s not only exhibition organisers who should heed the warnings of failed shows from the past. In a world of accelerated change, the period of maturity is getting shorter for all types of events and the decline is often steeper as a result.
Newness strategy – a necessary step for the future
Sam advocates purposeful event development driven by market insight much earlier in the event lifecycle. In other words, a newness strategy, implemented during your event’s growth period to stave off complacency and to keep up with shifting trends in attendee behaviour, technology and societal change.
“After a while, complacency results in planners flying blind, without enough up-to-date insights into their audience to make any kind of event improvements,” Sam remarks.
“The key trait of a newness strategy is that it challenges and informs by looking outside, talking to customers and listening to their wants and needs.”
By facilitating ongoing conversations with customers, sponsors and attendees through formats such as event advisory boards, networking socials and focus groups, planners can constantly glean insights to develop and test new content.
Sam says: “Planners should always be developing MVPs (minimum viable product), off the back of these conversations which can then be tested and integrated into the event’s growth cycle. It could be a new content stream of interest to attendees, a change in dietary habits that will drive menu planning or a new marketing channel gaining popularity.
“The tricky parts are keeping it simple, letting go as a leader so that newness ideas come from everyone, focusing on the continual process and learning from mistakes. If something doesn’t work, that’s OK but at least your audience will see you developing new ideas and placing greater importance on their feedback. It’s never too early to start implementing a newness strategy but you’ll know if you’ve left it too late.”