Fast or Slow- Should hysteria speed up today’s decision making?

The decisions to be made are more important than ever, with countless numbers of people impacted. A mistake – either in direction or execution – could be catastrophic. Given the pervasive uncertainty, quick decisions can be reassuring. But if those decisions are prompted only by hysteria, they’re likely not to be the right ones. Dealing with current circumstances requires quick, sensible action. The dilemma is that strategic decisions that require fast action also need deep and focused thought to guide them. As the expression says: “measure twice and cut once.”
So, should you make faster or slower decisions and can you make the right one?
Dividing your decisions into short, medium, and long-term choices will help. The right choice depends on where you are as a business.  Let’s examine three event scenarios:
1) The Coronavirus Catastrophe Scenario

The prospect of canceling/postponing a show puts your company in imminent danger. You need to make decisions that protect your short-term viability because otherwise there’ll be no long term. Before making any decision, you’ll need to understand the complete picture. For example, can you:
  • Work with the hotel/convention center to reschedule/cancel your event and refund your deposits?
  • Slash costs in the short term? 
  • Find viable alternatives for attendees and exhibitors, avoiding the need to offer refunds?
  • Secure an injection of capital or take out a loan?
What is the burn rate given your analysis of the above? That analysis will determine how much time you have to turn things around.
In this scenario, you will be amazed at how pressure focuses your attention on what’s important. You’ll find the internal resources that you never thought you had. But the focus must be short term, as consideration of the medium or long term represent a future that might not happen.
In this scenario, you’ll need to make measured decisions faster than normal, but not out of hysteria.

2) The Coronavirus Injury Scenario

It’s clear that canceling or postponing your show will bite you, but it won’t be a mortal wound. You’ve done the analysis mentioned in the previous scenario and determined that you’re OK as long as other things go your way.This year might require a retreat, but there’s still the medium and long term to consider. Perhaps some of your competitors will have fallen away, leaving you with a big opportunity if you make it through this contraction
Here are some of the considerations in this scenario:

  • You have excellent relationships with your customers and they’re willing to postpone events and let you retain their deposits.
  • You’re able to negotiate reasonably with suppliers
  • You’ve taken the long view and have a sufficient range of offerings and resources to help your attendees and sponsors move from event to event and/or to digital.
  • You’re able to communicate internally and externally in a timely, honest, consistent and convincing manner.
  • Your stakeholders have a vested interest in seeing you succeed
Make sure you address the basics: maximizing revenue retention and keep your expenses tight. Identify new revenue sources that can be pursued quickly. Your perspective extends beyond the present, so short-term decisions can support medium-term goals, if not further.
This scenario still requires faster decisions than normal, but they should be thoughtful and free from the hysteria of present circumstances.
3) The Not-a-Big-Deal Scenario
You have a broad spectrum of products or enough reserve in the ‘rainy day’ fund that although the scale of this pandemic is unprecedented, there are resources to handle what’s happening until the time when you can be fully back to business. Postponement or cancellations are a hit to the business, but you can live to fight another day.
The factors that contribute to this scenario are similar to #2, but your capabilities are even stronger. In many cases you have a ‘lock’ on your markets, so a temporary withdrawal – attributed to the broader situation – is no threat to your position. You can choose to focus on the long term, with decisions supporting goals like customer/supplier relationships, etc. Your position is the envy of the rest of the events industry. Congratulations!
In this scenario, your decisions can take place at the same speed as before, and you are certainly not going to be swayed by hysteria.
No matter what your circumstances are, here are some common actions you should be taking, regardless of external circumstances:

  • Spend as much time as possible analyzing important decisions; then make them confidently.
  • Project confidence in your interactions and decisions.
  • Rally the troops internally and externally so they understand your decisions and can execute them.
  • Reach out for help if needed; we’re all pointed in the same direction.
  • Remember that people, not only your customers, need reassurance and certainty in these times; do your best to provide both.
  • Be as consistent as possible – to the extent circumstances allow – in outlining the short, medium and long-term plans for those upon whom you depend.
Most of us are to be found in the second scenario. But the longer this Covid-19 extends, the more likely we may find ourselves at risk of slipping into the “catastrophe” category. If you are lucky enough to be one of those who will emerge as a viable entity, then you should figure out a long-term strategy that gets you into Scenario Three, if you are not there already.
Good luck and reach out if you need help.

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