Does this sound like a quesion with an obvious answer? It’s not, and I can prove it. One clue to possible problems is the core messaging. Is the tagline for your event something along the lines of:
- “It’s all about networking”
- “It’s all about action!”
- “Be ingenious!”
- Some other similarly trite, vacuous slogan?
If so, then it’s clear that you don’t understand the essence of your event (what the French would term its “raison d’etre” – the reason for being.) Or perhaps you do know the essential quality – or at least have an idea – but you’re just a poor marketer and cannot communicate it effectively. Regardless of the reason, the results will be the same: a poorly performing event that is not long for this world.
How can you fix the problem? Don’t rely on the past. An event’s previous history does not assure current or future success. Just because you’ve run your event for many years doesn’t mean it remains relevant without review and innovation. The markets we serve are too fluid. There are too many examples of what were once large, vibrant gatherings that no longer exist. Remember COMDEX and Macworld, anyone?
The challenges have only grown. Because of COVID’s impact on in-person gatherings of any kind since 2020, our customers now have experienced life without the assumption that they would be attending traditional events. Events can no longer assume to be an automatic budget allocation in the sales and marketing strategies (of exhibitors) or industry research (of attendees).
Are event managers responding appropriately? There have been far too many events that I’ve attended where the essence of them were once relevant but is no longer. Those events are on life support, simply awaiting their inevitable demise. For each event cycle, you must honestly reaffirm that your event’s existence has substantive value for all the relevant constituencies. Otherwise, you do both yourself and your supporting ecosystem a disservice. The results will be waning interest and declining participation.
And you must think beyond short-term results. Though revenue and profitability remain key references for viability, just making money can’t be the only reason to run an event. Without addressing the core business value being offered, any success should be considered transitory – even illusory – as is evident from the many “cash cow” events that once were prominent, but since have disappeared.
The bottom line is this: If you don’t provide value, the audience and sponsorships for your events eventually will disappear. Rather than resign yourself to that fate, it’s best to pre-empt the risk, taking action now to prevent that from happening.