If you are a Star Wars fan like me, you already recognize this phrase. Yes, Yoda says this famous phrase in Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, to the young Luke Skywalker as part of his training.
Today, I was watching old Star Wars movies as part of my “free pandemic time” and this phrase triggered many ideas and thoughts about life and business during these days. In many industries, it’s becoming obvious that we will need to follow Yoda’s advice and simply forget the way that we did business in the past and be ready to learn from scratch.
I spent most of the last thirty years of my professional life building companies in the media, tech, and live events industries. I was very lucky to partner with amazing entrepreneurs and corporations and enjoy a pretty amazing ride, learning every day from these experiences.
And now, I realized that Yoda is right (again) and we must unlearn what we have learned if we want to be successful in the future and avoid joining the dark side of the force 🙂
Let me share a simple example that is close to my heart about the live events industry. For decades, this industry enjoyed fantastic double-digit growth, fat margins, and happy stakeholders. Despite tech disruption in many industries, trade shows, corporate events, festivals, concerts, and sports events were basically organized in pretty much the same model for a very long time (pre-internet days). I organized hundreds of events for decades and I was part of that party and enjoyed every day of it.
But, for the last ten years, after selling my remaining participation in my event business to Reed Exhibitions, I started Vesuvio Ventures as a way to partner with great entrepreneurs and try to create tech solutions that could help some of the problems that I experienced in the past as a media or event organizer operator. I have to be honest and say that speed of change in these last ten years was extremely slow and painful. Event organizers were simply enjoying the ride, paying little or no attention to innovation and tech-based on the fact that “if the business was doing well, why the hell should I complicate my life with tech or innovation?”
Then, 2020 happened, and, as Vladimir Lenin said, “There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen.” We are seeing many of those kinds of weeks lately. Millions of face to face events have been canceled, trying to find a path to digital as a way to survive, keep their brands relevant, and their communities engaged. Most of the relevant and legit event tech solutions are creating customer waitlists, unable to satisfy the demand. Meanwhile, every single event organizer is doing a virtual event crash course, trying to understand in weeks what should take years. There is a clear trade-off on this situation. Learning a new way to organize events (face to face, hybrid, or virtual) takes time. There is no shortcut, you need to unlearn old habits and allow yourself to learn new habits. You need to earn respect and validation from your community (visitors/buyers, sponsors/exhibitors/sellers, and industry leaders) if you want to have a sustainable and long term product.
Nevertheless, the good news is that, finally, the live events industry is ready and wide open to innovation, a fantastic opportunity for all stakeholders. This year will be remembered as a time where we will see painful situations including many companies going out of business as well as people losing their jobs. But, this year will also bring the renaissance of an industry that will be bigger and better in the future. For those of you who are ready to unlearn and learn again, you will be able to enjoy endless opportunities. But, it will take a while – the training, learning, and path to success will be painful at times and slow. This is a massive industry with many different stakeholders and each of those players will need to learn new skills. Vendors and venues will need to evolve and facilitate technologies and processes to enable different types of events in a safe and healthy environment. Visitors will think twice before paying thousands of dollars and spending days of their lives in airports, convention centers, and hotels instead of simply joining some virtual sessions and meetings from their homes. Brands, exhibitors, and sponsors will also rethink the way they engage with their communities and will combine digital and face to face in ways that we’ve never experienced before.
But, after this new learning time in our lives and professional careers, if we do our job and are patient and persistent at it, we will be able to learn new and valuable skills. These people, brave and eager to unlearn and learn again will build fantastic new and fresh events experiences that will delight all participants and grow in the long term for decades to come.
Be brave and do your best effort finding your own Yoda, ask him to coach you and your company into the light side of the force, and soon you will join one of those classic celebrations at the end of each Star Wars movie as part of one of your future events.
Originally published at www.marcogiberti.com.