There is no crystal ball to see into the future. If there was, we all would have been prepared for COVID-19. Instead, in a matter of weeks, the global landscape has forever changed. So, how are speakers preparing for the future of meetings and events?
We have been through this before, with SARS, MERS, HIV, and H1N1. However, this is a different animal. A beast that made the meetings and events industry obsolete overnight. Unfortunately, the speaking industry followed suit. So, what now?
Here’s the thing, you are allowed to be sad, frustrated, and confused. What you are not allowed to do is let this difficult situation consume you!
An About-Face Approach
This is a time for the speaking community to take an “about-face” approach to the future of our profession. Reexamine how we connect and serve our clients. Being caught in quarantine is a great opportunity to share what you are doing to invigorate yourself. You may be able to help others spark a new idea or plan.
For example, I have minimized the number of hours of television I watch. I am spending more time outdoors exercising and walking my dog. I’ve grabbed a paintbrush to help with my husband’s house flip project. I have participated in several webinar learning programs. I finally got around to a new habit of writing once a week. And I even created a Stay Safe T-Shirt project in support of the many hospitality professionals that are making masks for health providers in need.
I’ve had plenty of time to work on a major update (which by the way is now live) to my site with Michael Roth at Chulado. Michael expertly guided me through a rebranding effort and took the lead in helping me position myself as a presenter for the hospitality industry.
Repositioning myself has allowed me to discover that feeling vulnerable can actually be motivating and leads to creativity. Then, I wondered, what my speaker friends were doing in quarantine. So, I asked them.
Exploring New Opportunities
Thom Singer, CSP, says, “Each day I make it a point to talk to a smart business person from a variety of industries to brainstorm new ideas. This allows me to help my clients in a new way while offering my “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast and a “Virtual Talk Show” with interviews for associations and companies. Also, I reach out to three people every day to make sure they are doing okay. We cannot prejudge who needs to hear from friends, family, coworkers, suppliers, etc.”
Ava Diamond with Ava Diamond International says, “I’m busier now than when I’m actually working. I am working on a new website, a new video, and a new book. To accomplish this, I’ve signed up for programs with Jennifer Darling, Heather Lutze of Findablity, Jane Atkinson, and Chris West of Video Narrative, Marc Ensign, Chris Widener, and Judy Carter. I’m an artist, so I’m spending a lot of time in my art studio creating acrylic paintings. Each afternoon, I take my dog Willow around the corner to play fetch.”
Dave Anderson is working on being an encourager. “I’m reaching out to people I’ve lost touch with over the years and to law enforcement agencies around the country who are in the hot spot areas to thank whoever I can talk with. Also, I’m writing a blog series with my 23-year-old son.”
Hospitality trainer and speaker Lynne Wellish wished she had time to take more walks during the beautiful weather outside, clean the house, or read her stack of books, however, she says, “I’m really busy teaching my community college classes while re-strategizing my speaking and training business.”
“I’m most grateful for all the extra quality time that I get to spend with my wife and 10-month old daughter,” says Derrich Phillips with Mentor Select. “Business-wise, I’m finishing up my third book, creating a video series, and finalizing an online course. I think that quarantine is a gift for creators. Staying connected with family and friends via Zoom video calls, especially to play fun games. COVID-19 can’t stop our fun!”
Linda Byars Swindling says, “I created a webpage, Negotiating Tough Times with video interviews, webinars, articles and resources to help my clients and others right now get through this craziness. Although our house is no cleaner, I still sing in our church’s praise band (though virtually), walk outside more, and reaching out to family and friends.”
Wayne Lee of Wayne Lee Enterprises, Inc. is a true entertainer that solely performs on live stages worldwide. “Since it’s obvious the speaking business is different. I’ve decided to include virtual meditation programs in my portfolio. It’s a bit tough for a hypnosis expert that has to show expression and interaction with my audiences but certainly enjoying the challenge. Mostly, I’m taking advantage of spending time with my family. Soon, I’ll be back on the traveling road, so this is a special quality time being at home.”
What it All Means
Sure, COVID-19 kicked our collective butts and we may be stuck in quarantine or shelter in place, for now. But the meetings and events profession will be back. It will be different and it will be better. People will want to go to meetings and events because they are social creatures that crave personal connections. Going forward, companies and organizations will be providing more value than traditional practices. Those companies know that speakers are their most precious resource to help make a meeting or an event a success. Content is king, but collaboration will be emperor in a post-COVID-19 world.
Deborah Gardner, CMP, is a speaker, hospitality and people expert. She is a two-time National Gold Medal Swimming Champion, one of the first female broadcasters on CBS Sports, a veteran of the hospitality industry and Mrs. Arizona 2020. This column was excerpted from her a piece on her web site DeborahGardner.com.
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