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The three paradoxes event organisers must navigate

Posted on January 20th, 2020 in Event News, Leadership, Speaker Interview

In our current event landscape, trying to create truly unique events can be a lot harder than it looks.

Whether it’s to do with size, promotion or metrics, knowing the best path to take isn’t the same for every event.

We spoke with Dr Jason Fox—Australia’s keynote speaker of the year (2016), bestselling author-philosopher, and organiser of numerous creative events of his own—about the three modern paradoxes facing event planners and organisers today.

Paradox #1: social media vs presence

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. While some may find that the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are addictive ways to waste time, others have found huge benefit in adding them to their marketing mix. For events, these apps can be an incredibly useful promotional tool — both before and after an event.

Some events even encourage attendees to post to social media while they’re there. The benefit to this is that it helps to get the word out about the event and make sure the circles of your attendees know all about what they’re missing out on. However, it does also take your guests’ attention off the proceedings and onto their phone.

Jason said, “Events, gatherings of humans, are a sacred opportunity where we get to step away from our work and our online lives.”

“Therefore the paradox of social media is a question of: what’s more important? The depth of the experience, or the ‘reach’ that it creates? There’s something really special about being there in the moment that doesn’t really translate to social media. But at the same time, if you don’t engage with social media at all, then in what ways would you discover the event or know that it’s happened? Perhaps the risk of missing out is a key aspect of creating an impactful event in the first place.”

Paradox #2: inclusivity vs exclusivity

It seems like there are two main schools of thought in the events world at the moment. One is to make events as big as possible, to invite as many people as you can and to have your doors open to all.

However, other organisers are leaning the other way and creating exclusive events. These may be invite-only or accessible only to certain individuals.

Neither is necessarily right, and there’s lively debate about when and why you should implement either strategy.

Jason said, “This one’s a little trickier to navigate: the paradox of diversity and inclusion. The overarching narrative is the more diverse and inclusive we are, the better. That’s something I wholeheartedly agree with.”

“But at the same time, there’s something special to be said around who is invited. In Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering, she mentioned that the most effective events have a sense of exclusivity to them.”

“There’s benefits to breadth and there’s benefits to depth.  I don’t have a clear answer for this, but one of the things I tend to avoid is jumping on the default hype-wagon. I’ll actually try to spend more time and research to see what would best serve the overarching intent of the event.”

Paradox #3: measuring the immeasurable

How do you know if your event has been a success? While you may have a gut feeling about this sort of thing, conventional wisdom says that you do it with metrics. How many people visited? How well did you score in the feedback forms? Are people going to come back?

But how do you measure things such as brand exposure? Or how does one even go about trying to measure how impressive their event’s wow factor was? Or if your little touches added the undertones you wanted?

While KPIs and metrics certainly have their place, they needn’t be the be-all and end-all. Sometimes, the thing that makes you stand out isn’t something that can be neatly categorised.

Jason mused: “The third thing I try to avoid is the crippling allure of metrics. I certainly feel that events should be one of those havens that is a little bit more forgiving, more open and more encouraging to thrive in their own way beyond metrics.”

“Whereas the business world is metric obsessed and everything needs to tick a box or hit some target, I don’t know if events should be the same.”

“I think there’s a point here that the best benefits are intangible and nearly impossible to measure. My inclination more than any other business sector is that if we focus more on the immeasurable things, the measurable things will fall into place.”

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