Posted June 30th, 2009 by maarten.vannest...
Today I saw a man cry.
He lost 80% of his 2009 business because of perception based postponing. He had to let go more than half his team… Clients that worked with him for a decade or so just dropped him and his entire team like a useless piece of debris.
His 20 year passion died with the brutality and senselessness of the cancellations.
“Sorry” sais the client, “we will be back next year” as he cancelled two of my friends biggest conferences. But will the client find his supplier back, next year? A broken man, symbol of a broken industry, may find new purpose in his life. The pain of getting branded “useless in 2009” and the unbearable task of firing friends in a small team is not easily forgotten.
How much talent is wasted? How many great staff have we lost forever? How big is the mental damage to the meeting industry? And how long will it take to get back on track?
We are not the only industry suffering, that much is clear. The Automotive industry was hurt even harder. Individual families postponing the investment in a new car is one thing, but management taking decisions based on potential media criticism and public perception is another. Passionate believers in the power of meetings would expect the opposite decision of management: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Especially in times of crisis, meetings are part of the solution and cancelling should not be an option. Redesigning the conference, changing the format, spending less are all acceptable, but cancelling?
Anyway, this damage is done. Not only to my European friend, but also an agency on the US west coast and many others are suffering double digit negative growth and have to fire half their team or worse. In some instances it will clean our industry from some of the lesser players, but in other instances it implies real damage to valuable assets that may be beyond repair.
Let’s hope the better players in our industry are able to recover as the demand returns. Let’s hope my friends on both sides of the Atlantic find back their faith and manage to crawl back up from the black hole their clients have put them in. Let’s hope that management sees the negative effect of cancelling their projects and last but not least, let’s hope our industry learns from this crisis and acquire a grip on the real value of meetings, their content side and the power to change. I believe that a growing general understanding of the value of meetings is the only thing that will protect the meeting industry against the next crisis. And we all know one is coming, in 10 to 15 years. let’s use the coming decade to arm ourselves in a global collaborative effort and create the discipline, the certification, the degree’s in Meeting Architecture and design the most effective meetings ever. We can surely make that happen by 2020 so never again we get pushed aside in the way we were in 2009.
Maarten Vanneste, © 2009