If estimates are to be believed, though we may be able to run events this year, both attendance and exhibitor participation will be down. Given COVID-19 and responding corporate restrictions, lower numbers and revenues for 2021 events are to be expected.
Does that exempt us from trying to understand attendee and exhibitor needs, given we have the handy excuse that attendance will likely be down? No, we still must treat the last 15 months as an opportunity to learn more about our customers.
It’s depressing that the expressions “the quantity is down, but the quality is up” or “quality is the new quantity” have made their return – much as they’ve always done during market downturns. Not that they might be appropriate in certain instances. But my reaction is more to those lazy marketers and event strategists who hope they can convince us that the presence of fewer attendees will necessarily be inversely correlated with their quality – that fewer attendees inherently means they are better attendees.
Guys and gals, this is tired thinking, and most of your customers will see through it. It’s much the same as you might have said back in the day when your excuse for failing to turn in your homework was that ‘the dog ate it.’
Rather than rationalizing a decline in attendance, what you should be doing is reaching out to the attendees and exhibitors who haven’t returned to past events to find out why. Now is the time to better understand your customers and apply that insight to enhance the customer experience and value.
We’ve all worked hard to keep things going over the last year. And we’re stressed out with wondering what the future will bring. Unfortunately, the bad times are not quite over, but we shouldn’t be resigned to accept whatever happens. Let’s ensure that we continue to build our competitive advantage during this downtime, with the knowledge that our customers of the future will be pickier than ever.
And I hope the dog never eats your homework…