Remember your old event calendar? Turn the page.

We told you that 2020 was a disruption, not an interruption. Some thought 2021 would be a return to normal. Hardly.

If you’re like many marketers, your annual plan used to be based around a predictable calendar. An all-hands or sales kick-off first. Customer-facing events in their usual seasonal slots, with industry trade shows and the like in their usual timeframes…even if they rotated venues. Hosted event programs were scheduled so as not to conflict with competitors. Year after year after year.

Then boom. Nothing. A scramble to virtual/digital. More that halfway through 2021, the rhythm of that calendar is faint if not every bit as unpredictable. Many organizations and trade associations are still wrestling with postponements and cancellations, their decisions framed by contract or financial realities that may not align with the needs or objectives of attendees and exhibitors.

Despite the proliferation of “we’re back” posts, we’re not. Yes – when compared to 2020, activity has without a doubt increased. But compared to your old event calendar from 2019, does this honestly feel like back to normal?

As we look forward, we are faced with yet another budget cycle where the previous period cannot be used to benchmark event spend. That is reality. That is the new normal. I used to bemoan the old “we always do this event” response when auditing client event programs. We unfortunately now know exactly what it’s like not to…with virtual and hybrid adding complexity to the mix.

Now what?

Build agility into your programs

If we face a ‘next-time’ pandemic scenario, not having a plan is not an acceptable answer. (shameless plug: ask me about our hybrid event architecture explained or register for our Event Strategy Series, ESG 20, here.)

Don’t guess. Measure.

And remember, pre-pandemic stats are likely not relevant.

Ruthlessly focus on the business objective and demand that programs deliver.

If ever there was a time to scrutinize your portfolio, this is it. Dirty little secret: there are times where the advice you need to hear is not to participate.

Whenever possible, control your own destiny.

Sponsored programs must deliver the goods or be cut. Get ready for the “quality vs. quantity” rhetoric – and beware.

So go ahead and turn the page. Here’s to finding clarity and opportunity in the chaos of our new schedules!