I grapple with the idea that creating something is tougher than restoring something. When you create something new, you get to start with a mostly clean slate. Depending on how many interested parties you have, the process of creation gets more complex. However, you’re not as limited usually as you are with the restoring process. A great example of new is NTEN’s Leadership Change Summit or NOI’s RootsCamp. Both of the events, though risky when they first started, have powerful ideas and great connection opportunities. They also didn’t have the shadow of “other” really leaning over them. True, there are bigger, annual conferences that works with a more general parts of their audiences, but for these events, it was an opportunity for vertical marketing and education and a new opportunity to connect with a distinct niche.
Now, take a look at someone who’s charged with restoring an event, training, convention or conference that’s been around for more than 10 years. In restoring something, you’re essentially making a change. You can call it updated, you can call it transformation, but essentially it’s change. And depending on how long that thing has been around, you usually have ALOT of people in the way and along the way as you try to examine and explore what kinds of restoration are necessary.
Restoration doesn’t necessarily mean you get rid of everything. There’s a furniture craze going around right now, in which when you restore, you actually take away the varnish but then add several different layers of paint to make the furniture look shabby or worn. What’s old is new, right?
If you look in various industries, you can also see the same trends finding themselves hot again in cycles: whether education or tech, association management or marketing media, ideas are hardly ever brand spankin’ new. Restoration involves a lot of elbow grease (hey there committee meetings), a lot of negotiation, and many times, a lot of trade off. You water the ideas down enough so that it’s less disruption of the old and more a smoothing over of the lines that were “marring” the experience. You shine it up and call it restoration: to its former glory, to its place of leadership in the industry, etc.
What about implosion? What though if your boss or client really wants you to “innovate” to “blow up the house” to implode it all and make the thing all shiny new and magical? You get to both create AND restore, because in the implosion, you’re undoubtably left with a frame of what used to be (unless you use the acme dynamite) but you’ve got the blank slate of kind of new. Sounds great, right?
Well, unless you’re ignoring the organization or community entirely, implosion (unless you’re in tech or contributing to 3M’s amazing Idea Exchange) imploding can actually almost be the most difficult of all because you’ve now taken away what they’ve always known (despite the ongoing claim that at least 50% event participants are new, I can’t link or cite this stat because it’s an urban myth i’ve heard repeated at nearly every association or nonprofit I’ve worked at. Ping me if you’ve got the data to back it up) and are now tasked with helping them understand the new direction of where you’re taking the place the participants have always gone to meet their friends.
Change is scary and sometimes too much, too fast, too soon, can scare off the change champions and leave those that are out there implementing it without a safety net. It’s tough and it’s hard, especially with event cycles that have us planning and booking for events and experiences that are often three to five years out. In today’s marketplace, in one year, the world can change drastically, in three to five? Well, it sometimes doesn’t matter what your starting point is, you can’t always predict where the world is headed.
So, for the sales and meetings professionals who sit through the long pipeline with us as we figure out whether we’re really creating, restoring, or imploding, know that we really appreciate your patience, and your ideas, and the times you’ve served as a sounding board (dear B, you know I’m sorry about that time I kept you hostage for an hour as I had to talk it out but thanks again!) We promise we’ll book a meeting with you at some point and if we can’t, we’ll definitely refer our friends your way.
And to the events and learning designers, the business development and marketing professionals, and anyone else who has tried to guess the next innovative learning trend, price of coffee, the number of wireless microphones, or forecasted the size of a venue needed or updated content/promotions marketing plan 18 months out for an organization that is undergoing change, you’re doing a good job. And remember, the starting point isn’t nearly as important as where you end up.