As a child, I remember being awakened early on Sundays and getting dressed — while kicking and screaming — because we were off to church. For me it was very unsettling — not because of what I already knew, but because of what I didn't know.
For starters, the service was in French, and I didn't understand French. (Well, the part when I was in trouble with my mother or grandmother, I understood.) Then there was the standing up, the sitting down and, even worse, the kneeling. I never seemed to know what I was supposed to do next, but one thing was certain — there would be no “fidgeting” whatsoever.
Then the dreaded part would come, filling me with anxiety. It was the moment to become vulnerable — to create an emotional connection with complete strangers — as we had to turn to all four corners of the church, shake the hands of those strangers and offer the sentiment “peace be with you” (or something like that; again, it was in French).
What I do remember was that — oddly enough — it was in that moment of vulnerability and extending myself to others that I felt the only moment of calm I was able to achieve in that hour.
So, during this time of uncertainty and instability in the market-places around the world, as an industry of friends and colleagues, let's stop fidgeting, show our vulnerability and wish “peace” for each of us over the course of the next year and beyond.
Here are a few tips on how to stay focused on a positive outcome and shield yourself from chaos (as best as possible) during times when you may see your business interrupted by the trends of the market and feel unsure what you are supposed to do next:
Focus on self-promotion. That means show up; don't hide in the corner. Your team needs to see a focused and positive you. Engage by staying in the game and continuing to participate in associations and conferences. Leave an impression, listen and put your best foot forward at all time. Change as your clients' goals change. Find yourself, stay true to your integrity, and connect with others.
Dust off your business plan. Stay true to the vision and values of your com-pany. Make smart business adjustments where necessary, but use your plan as a dispassionate filter for business decisions.
Don't undercut colleagues to get ahead. Taking the high road and focusing on your strengths instead of their weaknesses will ensure that our industry maintains its professionalism and that we are prepared to take it to the next level when business turns around.
Be strategic with your clients. If you haven't done it before, now is the time to demonstrate that you understand their challenges, too, and that you want to be an integral partner in the communication, marketing and sales mix. If you are just the “party person,” then you need to adjust your positioning so you aren't the first line-item cut.
Be wary of designing events that can be seen as excessive or that have elements that are gratuitous. Seek to be less creative and more innovative in your approach. There is a huge difference between the two.
Uphold stable pricing. Don't slash everywhere. Proven reliability, longevity and quality retain their value even in troubling times.
Conduct yourself as the professional businessperson that you are. Focus on cash flow and bottom line, and be proactive in cutting expenses. Be as creative and innovative with your own business expenses as you would be with an event.
Focus on education and improved productivity. You might not be busy doing events, but you can get yourself ready for when the business turns around. Now is the time to get your CSEP. Now is the time to develop templates for RFPs and to master specialized event software.
When I had to get up early on those Sundays, I knew I was going to experience that moment of vulnerability whether I liked it or not. As an adult, I realize that it is moments such as these that elevate professionalism and force change for the good of the event industry. Somewhere in there is a message, that if we look to each other, understand that we are all going through it together, and reach out to those in our industry, there is an opportunity to remain calm during the most trying of times.
Above all, keep in mind this sentiment: Remember that peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
Ken Kristoffersen, CSEP, is head of Experiential Events, with offices in Calgary, Alberta, Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, and Toronto. He can be reached at 866/921-9801; www.experientialevents.ca.