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“The Future Belongs to Those Who Are Fast”

Jim Carroll is an author, columnist, media commentator, and consultant, with a focus on linking future trends to innovation and creativity. He has a 25-year track record in providing independent guidance to a huge, diverse global client base and is recognized worldwide as a “thought leader” and authority on global trends; rapid business model change; business model disruption in a period of economic uncertainty; and the necessity for fast paced innovation.

Jim was invited by our client, pladis, to keynote their inaugural leadership conference last year. Here he shares his views on the future of the conference and events industry and the need for speed…

Given that my motto is “the future belongs to those who are fast”, I was struck by a tweet that @HGACreative put out last December:

7 days for a conference to be put together. Now that caught my attention!

And the fact is, that might be the new normal going forward in the leadership meeting and events industry, for virtually every organization.

Let me explain why.

It’s not that Amazon is staggeringly disorganized or anything – as THE organization at the heart of disruptive innovation, they are in the midst of a tornadic whirlwind, and need to respond, act, and structure themselves for speed. Their world is one in which new issues might quickly bubble to the surface, and in which they need to respond instantly.

But here’s the rub – the speed of change in which Amazon is immersed is the new normal for virtually every other industry – it’s the era of acceleration, as I often explain to my clients. And this is having a big impact on the need for organizations to align themselves faster with new trends, challenges and opportunities. They are dealing with this by putting together leadership meetings and events faster – maybe not in just 7 days, but certainly faster than they did years ago. As someone who frequently speaks at such events around the world, my booking cycles have gone to a matter of just a few months and in some cases, just weeks.

The essence of speed

What’s at the heart of this trend? Certainly the fact that there is a lot of fast technology and ideas about – all of which is accelerating business. Take a look around at the cutting-edge trends of our time, including autonomous vehicle technology, sensors and the Internet of Things, 3D printing, virtual reality, alternative energy generation and storage technologies, genomic medicine and healthcare virtualization, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual cash, machine learning and robotics, crowd thinking and next-generation R&D – to name but a few.

Put just a few of these trends together, and some big bold thinkers in an industry, and you’ve got the essence for disruption – a period of time in which every assumption that you might have about your company, the industry you compete in, and the rules you operate by, are being subjected to dramatic and wrenching change. I’m being pulled in by automotive companies such as Mercedes Benz for insight into the fast-moving self-driving car industry; by BASF for what happens as the oil and energy industry changes at a furious pace; by Disney as the world of retail and entertainment finds itself in a tsunami of change. Heck, even NASA has had me in twice for my thoughts on how the business of space is changing!

There are very specific and unique issues in all of these events. For my event with pladis and HGA, my focus was on the disruption occurring in the retail industry, and what the organization needed to do to adopt a mindset of agility: how can they structure themselves for speed? In the era of disruption, agility, disruption, transformation and innovation are my watchwords, and the meetings and event industry is the tool for the delivery of such insight.

Last year, I wrote a blog post for Washington Speakers Bureau on the future of meetings and events – and what I wrote parallels the situation that HGA finds itself in today with events such as Amazon as outlined above. With that in mind, its’ probably a good idea to share the blog post with you and see if you are similarly challenged by speed.

Keep up with the Speed of Change: Future Trends in the Speaking Industry

You can’t open a newspaper without seeing an article on the impact of ‘disruption.’ We now live in a period of unprecedented change in which your business model and the assumptions by which you operate are set to be forever disrupted.

In my own case, I spend a tremendous amount of time with different organizations in a vast range of different industries and professions, helping executives to understand and respond to the disruptive forces around them. And in the last several years, I’ve noticed some pretty significant changes in the speaking industry as organizations struggle with disruption.

If you are someone on your team responsible for organizing corporate or association meetings, you need to think about and react to the trends and forces at work. Quite simply, change is occurring several ways: with the speed with which speakers and topic experts are being booked, the topic areas that insight is being sought for, and the short time frames that everyone is working within.

As a speaker who focuses on how to link trends and innovation, my tag-line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.”

The world is speeding up – and organizations need to respond faster

Consider the changes that everyone is impacted by today. Business model disruption. The rapid emergence of new competitors. The challenging impact of social media. Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market. The digitization of everything and the impact of the Internet of Things. All of these trends – and more – require that organizations pick up the pace when it comes to their strategies, actions and innovation efforts.

I’m seeing that within my global client base, where I am being engaged more frequently by senior executives in companies to help them assess and identify strategic plans in the light of these high-velocity trends.

The theme of faster innovation is an undercurrent for events. The guiding cry seems to be, ‘we know we need to change – and we know we need to change faster!”

Organizations are booking speakers faster

These rapid changes are leading to some absolutely fascinating booking cycles in my speaking career – with an increasing number of my events booking just a few weeks or a month out. That’s a big change. It used to be that speakers were booked a year or more in advance. That still happens, but it is an increasingly uncommon occurrence.

Consider the old, traditional booking cycles. In the past, the typical speaker was booked by someone with MPI or other event industry credentials – an association or corporate event planner. They would work on a long, elaborate timeline, often a year in advance, for an annual conference of a meeting. In addition to the speaker selection, the process would involve a detailed site selection, a comprehensive RFP process, site visits, and lots of committee discussions around the tone, direction and theme of the meeting.

This is no longer the case.

In the new high-velocity economy, in which organizations are suddenly confronted with new challenges and opportunities at an increasing pace, organizations must challenge themselves from a leadership and strategic perspective faster.

This involves finding a content or subject effort fast and bringing that individual in quickly. That’s because rapid market, business, industry, and skills change leads to a need for faster “knowledge delivery”.

The result? Corporate and association events take on a more strategic role, with resulting shorter planning cycles and smaller, more tightly focused events with a specific strategic purpose.

New strategic meetings need to serve a very specific purpose – not a broad ‘theme’

Organizations don’t just want inspiration anymore – they need specific ideas with specific action plans. In a world of fast change, speakers can’t just provide inspiration: they need to provide real solutions.

Audiences are looking not only for detailed trends analysis that is specific to them but real solutions that they can pursue right out of the gate. Insight on how to develop a relentless focus on growth or opportunities in solving customer problems before the customer knows it’s a problem. They want to concentrate on ingesting fast ideas; checking their speed and focusing on corporate agility or focusing on long-term wins through constant incremental improvements. They know that skills partnerships are a key success factor. They know that right now is a great time to make bold decisions and to take decisive advantage to forge aggressive new paths against their competitors.

Whatever the case may be, these new strategic meetings are all about real solutions to real challenges and opportunities.

The shifting role of the event professional

Traditionally, speakers have been booked by meeting professionals, Event Planners, or others who bear responsibility for their events. That’s no longer the case.

When meetings and events come together with an entirely new, fast and specific strategic purpose, the person charged with the responsibility of organizing the content is someone entirely different. Usually a Manager, Director or someone else with many other responsibilities.

Some research indicates that today, only 17% of meeting planners have “meeting planner” in their job titles; and less than 20% of meeting planners spend over 50% of their work time planning meetings.

Connecting with the right speaker

My experience has shown that event professionals often feel overwhelmed by the vast number of speakers available to them and the massive range of potential optics. It’s confusing, overwhelming, and intimidating.

Here’s the most interesting thing: they might not necessarily be aware of the role that a speakers bureau can play in helping them to make their way through the vast number of options that are out there. That’s why I continue to invest a lot of time in ensuring that my friends at the Washington Speakers Bureau understand what I do and how I do it; how I customize; how I work with the client to help them achieve their very specific strategic objectives. In that way, WSB is better positioned to help potential clients understand the very unique role it can play in this highly specialized world.

In other words, if disruption is happening, it’s better to lead the disruption through innovative thinking and actions!

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