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Comfort and Fear – How to use one to get more of the other

In the poem, Sad Cure, Graham Greene wrote that “Comfort and Fear – these two alone make Life / But while the Fear too often stood alone…The Comfort always had been mixed with fear.” *

That sentiment characterizes how many now are living: in fear. And because of that fear, they are allowing themselves to settle with what is most comfortable even when there are opportunities available. I must confess some disappointment that, despite the length of time we’ve had to become acclimated to the pandemic, many have failed to grasp the opportunities that have become obvious.

We’ve drifted down the river – rather than steer our own course – paralyzed by television news and social media and hoping for things to return to how they were in the good old days.

In some ways, my industry has acted differently. It has demonstrated a willingness to come together, with competitors collaborating in the hosting of events. There also have been new national advocacy efforts that I hope will champion the power and business value of events as we head into the future. You could also argue that the speed with which many events switched to virtual mode has proven to be a great learning opportunity for the industry.

All the above were spawned by reaction to the pandemic, rather than intentional efforts to innovate and grasp new opportunities. Despite all the positives that have happened, we’ve still tended to retreat due to the fear of failing, taking comfort in waiting until the situation returns to “normal” when we can again do what we did before.

I guess we’ll find out what the new “normal” is when vaccines take hold, the economy opens, and travel and budgets free up.

But rather than just wait, we still have an opportunity to act now. What do I suggest?

To start, I suggest we use the ‘energy’ of fear harness the opportunities of the future. Part of being able to do that will also demand that you:

1) Be friendly and helpful to others, even if you don’t agree with them- this will build future relationships.

2) Continue to listen to and learn from your customers- this will build loyalty and ideas for new products.

3) Constantly test innovation-this will build the business of the future.

4) Trust yourself and your colleagues that despite fear, your gut is usually right- this will build your business


Because of where we are, I see great opportunities available to us. If I am to learn anything from the Graham Greene poem, it’s to use fear as something that fuels an intention to find the next level of accomplishment.


Enjoy the opportunity to do so.

* “Sad Cure” as cited by Norman Sherry in ‘The Life of Graham Greene: Volume One, 1904-1939’


Will your exhibitors and attendees come back?

Hey, event organizers! I have some bad news for you. You are going to have to re-engage with attendees and exhibitors all over again – as if it were the first time. They have gone 12 to 18 months without your face-to-face events. They may or may not have done some of your virtual events, but they’ve had a vacation from the schlepping involved in physically attending one of your shows.

And there’s no certainty they will return.

You’ll have to prove yourselves to your customers all over again as part of the relaunch of your events. In so doing, your attendees and exhibitors will want to know:

• Will you have the top products at your show?
• Will you have the best content and education available?
• Will the right people to meet be in attendance?
• Will their competitors be there?
• What if they were to skip the event and see how the non-attended event performs?

Rather than just roll out the latest version of your last show, to match the success of your last pre-pandemic event will require you to do more. And here’s the bad news: you probably will not succeed the first time. Your first show may only get a small fraction of the pre-pandemic attendance and exhibitor participation. Will that be sufficient to convince both to come back a second time? Will it be enough for you to take the chance of holding the event and will it be profitable for you to do so? 

The goal of your first post-pandemic effort is to do well enough in terms of exhibitors and attendees that it becomes a pathway to your second event – the one that will be the star. 

Notice that I haven’t even mentioned the challenges found in the CDC’s health and safety requirements, as outlined in a March 12th article in Successful Meetings. My favorite line in the article is “Are there any ways to reduce the number of attendees?” That’s hardly the goal that would typify most traditional event managers. The point is we can’t afford to coast, with a “the past equals the future” attitude in terms of attendance and exhibitor buy-in. 

Your customers have had a lot of time away from your events. Will they feel the need to return? You better develop a plan to ensure they do.