I speak at over twenty in-person and online conferences a year, always on another organization’s stage or virtual platform, to their audience. Recently I decided to host an event myself, and because I have never done that before, I did not have a baseline for how many people might register.
Before sending the offer out to the world, I thought, “well, if thirteen people register and seven people attend, that is enough people for everyone to have a good experience. If fewer register, maybe I can pull in a friend or two to make up the difference”. Imagine my surprise when 98 people registered on the first day. Twelve hours later, there were 125 registrations, which is when I closed registration, fearing that the event would exceed the 100 participant limit.
I relayed the experience to a friend of mine who hosts virtual events all the time and asked her if the registration numbers were normal. She said, “there’s no normal right now.” More people are coming out for online events but, 20 more or 2,000 more? You don’t know until you try.
We are walking into a world where it will be hard to know what to expect. Forecasting, projections, and budgeting will be more of a guess than ever before. The virtual equivalent of our in-person events won’t function (or reward) like the events we hosted for the last decade. Members’ needs have changed and will continue to change. The world of work is vastly different and will likely pivot even more.
Given our disrupted business environment, perhaps this is not the right time to go seeking the right answers. Likely no one has the correct answers. We just don’t know what is going to happen. Perhaps instead, this is the time to start asking good questions. What do our members need right now? What do we suspect members will need a year from now, two years, or three? What do our sponsors, exhibitors, and consultants need? How might we experiment with delivering solutions for this new set of problems? How do we need to provide those solutions differently?
Let’s exchange our posture of always having the right answer for always being curious.