The previous post You’ve got to deliver what the audience really wants has provoked discussion in a number of forums and the responses have made for interesting reading, not least because of the seeming inability to move on from old arguments.
So let’s look at the topic from a different angle, by considering two industries closely related to producing live events; so closely related in fact that you would consider them siblings; i.e. publishing and broadcasting.
In both of these industries, the key players are referred to as Media Owners. Because they own the medium through which the content is broadcast. And for years this is exactly what they have done; decided when, where and what information and entertainment their audiences or readerships were going to consume. They have made and broken many a star, politician or company profit, simply through the editorial decisions they have taken which have influenced the masses.
Conference and exhibition organisers, be they commercial operations, industry bodies or associations, continue to believe that they must operate in a similar way. Developing programmes of content that they perceive the audience wants, choosing speakers and selecting participating exhibitors (via an economic filter it is true) and presenting a finished product to the visitors at a time, date and venue over which the latter has no control.
Then along came the Internet and social media and the shift in power from owner to audience was seismic.
Because the concept of expertise ownership by a few large corporations doesn’t fit any more. You can’t tell me what I should be watching, what information I need, or who I should be networking with. You can’t stop me finding organisations who can’t afford to exhibit at your event or who haven’t got a charismatic speaker, because if their Search and SM strategies are good I can do this on my own. And, you can’t stop me telling people, a lot of people, about the experience your organisation offers me, within minutes if I so choose.
So let’s bin the argument about virtual not replacing face-to-face; because we all know it won’t. Let’s stop finding fault with virtual technologies, because frankly some of them are pretty amazing. And let’s stop pretending that we still own audiences and industries because of the events we produce because we don’t. Let’s embrace the new to enhance the old rather than dismissing it as a fad that has nothing to do with us.
What we need to be doing, with or without the help of virtual technologies, is to work out how we build and maintain relationships with our communities; how we facilitate communication and collaboration between individuals both through a single live day and an online presence; and how we use the unfettered enthusiasm of our audiences to create a profitable business model for the future.
Tags: associations, Building virtual events, business, collaboration, communities, event organisers, Events, Hellen Beveridge, innovation, Networking, Social Networking, technology, Virtual events, virtual technologies
Sometimes, if you say something often enough you can convince yourself it is the truth. Like accepting there is only one way of doing things, and it costs X.
Ingrained in a workforce or population’s psyche, these points of view become corrosive, strangling innovation and stifling original though. It takes a brave person to become the tall poppy and disrupt the status quo.
It shouldn’t be this difficult. Cultures change, needs evolve and skills develop. Humanity’s greatest asset is its ability to adapt to challenges and circumstances, to create something new and build an exciting future.
But knocking your house down with the goal of constructing a brand new habitat is hugely unsettling, not least because for a time you are displaced from your home environment, surrounded by strange things and feeling anchorless. Your plans get buffetted from all sides: critiqued by other individuals; slowed by delivery days; and affected by the great unknown – the weather.
Some people don’t stay the course, moving back to something more familiar, throw in the towel in a fit of pique or simply become exhausted by the effort of dragging so many others with them on their epic adventure. However, if no one had ever taken the plunge, we would probably all still be living in tree-houses.
And so it is with our current working practises. We already have the technology to deliver collaborative, two-way communication between large and small workforces. We can deliver cost-effective, instantaneous training to government organisations that will reduce travel and accommodation budgets to practically nothing. This budget cut will do nothing to affect service delivery, in fact the efficient dissemination of information and intelligence and the network of collaboration could make it better than ever.
It’s time we got connected.
It’s a concept that is of no surprise to consumers. Buying goods from eBAY or Amazon is commonplace and unless the purchase is bulky enough to be collection only then the location of the seller is of no concern.
In business, there are some forerunners who eulogise on the benefits of teleworking and have a network of customer service representatives using leading edge technology to answer queries; and in the respond and repair sector every customer-facing representative is, quite literally, out on their own.
The quote in the title comes from a paper written by O’Brien et al in 1992 and shows that nearly 20 years ago, someone writing an academic paper had already recognised that where you conducted your business was going to be the least of your worries. Not having read all of the paper, it’s difficult to know exactly what aspect of business the authors were talking about. You would hazard a guess, given the timing, that maybe outsourcing was involved, or even the beginnings of the teleworking revolution since the Internet didn’t really start to take off until 1996/97.
But their words now look very prescient. A business in Delhi may have the same issues as one in Dallas, a clinician in Sydney will share issues with one in Stockholm. Until now, unless they happen to have met one another at an international conference, exhibition, training course or something similar, they would be unable to connect, compare notes and find solutions that transcend national boundaries.
Social media networks have already shown that business people like to connect with other business people. Why do they do it? Because there is safety in numbers. Just as we talked about yesterday in the post on Consensus of Subjectivity. What businesses need to do is to understand how to harness the power of this desire for connectivity and sharing, while embracing an individual’s need, or desire, to work somewhere else other than Head Office, and that by building a relationship with someone on the other side of the world may just be the answer they need to deliver impeccable results locally.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution, which began in the UK in the 18th Century, the greatest need was not for more raw materials, investment or manpower, but for the effective and speedy transfer of knowledge.
The key to success was collaboration and cooperation.
Back in the time of the Victorians some of this important knowledge transfer happened in exactly the way it does today: by the fluidity of employment where an individual takes their skills and contacts to a new organisation, which hopefully is open to their ideas. Study tours were also a big part of the process, one which today we have replaced with specialist business media and exhibitions, though it is unlikely these activities are approached with the metholodical zeal shown by our ancestors.
Where we have diverged from the Revolutionaries of 200 years ago is in the formation of open collaboration, often with direct business rivals. The network of informal philosophical societies, like the Lunar Society of Birmingham, in which members met to discuss ‘natural philosophy’ (i.e. science) and often its application to manufacturing flourished from 1765 to 1809, and it has been said of them, “They were, if you like, the revolutionary committee of that most far reaching of all the eighteenth century revolutions, the Industrial Revolution”.
It was this collaboration that enabled the leading industrialists of the day to continually make progress, adapting ideas created, tested and developed by others to make their own processes better rather than trying to create solutions by spinning solely in their own orbits. By knowing what others had trialled and tested, it meant that much going over new ground was avoided, mistakes remained unrepeated and progess rapidly made.
Collaboration and effective networks have never been more important in our changing economies, but how to build and sustain them in a culture of information overload? By creating virtual spaces that facilitate networking across boundaries, where information can be shared, action plans created and outcomes measured, again and again…