Pivoting the Focus to Still Move People

The event industry is a passion industry!  How do we move people in the midst of a pandemic? Nick Borelli, an event strategist, sits down and shares how we can make the pivot!

Tell us how COVID-19 hit you?

I have been asking this question a lot to my friends too. Many of them are dealing with this in immediate ways, and others are being cautiously optimistic. Personally I work for organizations that represent a lot of events. The ones most affected by this and the least likely to bounce back quickly. Everyone on our team self-quarantined. It’s been a moment of reflection before we start working on solutions in the strategy world for our clients who are hurting pretty badly. When it comes to content there is a lot of work to be done now.

There is pain right? There’s very obvious to find pain. It’s just determining where you have authority, what your lane is, and addressing the pain of the people who are most important to you, in order for you to use your skillsets to improve and help. That is where I am coming from and the work I am doing now. How can we prepare people for massive disruptions so they have systems in place to make better decision making based around design thinking.

How do you strategize when you don’t know if something like this is going to happen?

I will address that we are in uncharted waters for the most part. I am not going to say there is this case study to follow. The best case studies are from 1918, not exactly a lot of road maps for success in the midst of a pandemic in the live events industry.

We can rely on frameworks for thinking. Sit reps, something the military uses on what you know, what you don’t know, what to communicate. There is things like what should you be putting out to the world. It’s not about the products you have but you should be talking about your mission and how you can in the midst of this contribute through your mission.

Create benchmarks, tipping points. If this happens then we know it’s too late for this. Lots of listening. This is an unparalleled time, especially in marketing. The best sales and marketing people know it, and the rest of the world is weak on it. You need a chief listening officer right now. You need someone who has their thumb on the pulse of your community and the world.

Most of us are cheerleaders and believe in live events into our soul. We could make more money doing other things but it’s a passion industry. We’re thinking always with our passion in regards to this stuff. Often times our clients are not. They are not as passionate about what they see as one stream. You need to divorce yourself from that and see it is their perspective. We’re a bunch of believers, you should post-pone, I believe that too, we will get through this people will gather again; the problem is, will that message resonate right now? Is that the message we need to hear internally, yes! Is that the message that resonates externally, I don’t know. I think they are thinking, how can I be made whole? We can become partners and use our skills in different ways and address bigger problems. It may be outside of live experiences. Facilitating the goals of our clients should be something we start thinking a little more flexibly about.

How do you do that?

Look at the client’s mission, and really understand it and understand what they are put on this earth to do. And how can you be a facilitator with one less specialty (events)? If your mission is to connect the world, or service this community, how can I use the skills I have in order to facilitate that? I know how to help people achieve goals through design. I do that with architecture and with props, and with things that engage senses. Whatever your contribution is to live experience is, consider how that can be applied in a useful way in this economy and create new lines of revenue in the short term. That’s one option.

The other option is collaboration. There are lots of people hurting. How can you put together a bunch of different skills and create a new product in the interim.

The last thing I want to see is a bunch of people lowering their prices. It’s a race to the bottom. It’s harder to come back from that. Better to create new things that didn’t exist before and those could dissolve after word.

What is the purpose of strategy and how does it work?

Events have phases. There’s an entrance, engagement, and more. Above the phases there are three umbrellas.

Strategy
Design
Execution

For the longest time were were executors, in the late 90’s we got into true sophisticated planning. There’s planning planning planning and it evolved into a conversion of experiential.

What advice do you have for newbies?

Outside of this atmosphere, get out is something people have said. The first people I want to address is the people who have been in the industry for a while and cut that out. Your problems were of time, and building their problems are intellect and we can’t scare away talent. They are going to stand on your shoulders but don’t have your initial thing be “this is a tough industry”.

No matter your contribution, not everyone gets to create the strategy, but everyone should think strategically.

Figure out what you’re good at besides the thing you do. What are you good at the way you think?

Give us a little hope.

I am a generally pretty optimistic person. I do believe a little bit in business darwinism. As much as a recession is a terrible thing to waste. Everyone on the other side of this is going to be smarter and more educated. We might be able to evolve faster than we could. There’s an ability to overcome things that makes you resilient. This is the time to stretch.

@nickborelli

nick@nickborelli.com

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