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.