Marketing Strategy

Predicting the future of events.

by Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes

My business partner Vincent Polito and I had the honor of co-chairing CEIR Predict, held September 14–15 in Washington, D.C. The conference attracts senior executives within the exhibition industry for a deep-dive discussion about current economic, political and societal trends with the goal of identifying strategies, tactics, tools and technologies necessary to serve transforming markets. For those of you who weren’t there—or were there and would like to share the content with colleagues—I’ve edited and cleaned up my notes for you here…

Presidential politics.
When asked who would be the next U.S. president, 84% of Predict attendees answered “Hillary Clinton.” Several media pundits, however, believe the race is closer than we think and pointed out a few valuable lessons that business leaders should be taking from the campaign trail. For instance, Bob Bierman of Tiny World Media made the case that Donald Trump, a truly unconventional, disruptive “change” candidate, is doing well because of his authenticity. He said audiences crave unscripted moments, politicians who keep talking when they think the mic has been turned off, people who say things that are un-PC, etc. Often, the public will forgive the actual content because they appreciate the ability to experience unscripted spontaneity. “People crave authenticity. Even if it’s a bunch of lies,” Bierman joked.

To STEM or not to STEM?
For those of you serving industries that require workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and math, you’re likely familiar with the acronym and the skills gap facing employers who are your members, exhibitors and/or attendees. Chad Moutry, Chief Economist at the National Association of Manufacturers, said that over the next decade, there will likely be 3.5 million jobs in manufacturing, and 2 million of them will go unfilled. Panelist Brian Kelly, Chief Content Officer at U.S. News & World Report, discussed the need to transform our education system to address this phenomenon. Kevin Daum, “Inc.” magazine columnist, disputed the point, saying that these skills will soon be robotized/digitized/ commoditized and what’s truly missing from today’s labor force are workers with the skills needed to think creatively and communicate effectively.

“Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.”
Andrew Trabulsi, Research Manager at Institute for the Future, introduced the audience to new technologies that are helping to facilitate tomorrow’s “coordination-based economy.” One such tool is Crystal, which uses personality detection technology to tell you how you can expect any given person to behave, how he or she wants to be spoken to and what you can expect your relationship with that person to be like. After he told us about that, I didn’t hear anything else he said because I was running the names of all my colleagues through the program. Sorry.

We’re all in the business of data.
Aleksander Levental, Co-Founder and CEO at Feathr, challenged us to stop thinking of Google as a search engine or Facebook as a social networking site. Those are just the “hooks,” he said—they’re in the business of data, just like you are as an exhibition manager. He also told us that he studied physics and math in school, thinking he’d go into academia until he discovered how much he loves money. We get it, Andrew. We get it.

Rational forecasting.
Noted economist Dr. Dan Altman reminded us that in today’s dynamic business climate, past performance is no guarantee of future results. To better predict the future, we must collect all available information and understand the dynamics of the system and follow logic. Past data must be evaluated through a lens of current trends and intelligent assumptions. If you saw the movie “The Big Short,” you likely already understand this concept.

Millennials are moving into middle management.
One millennial panelist, Daniel Lippman from Politico, talked about his unconventional foray into the world of journalism, which included sending reporters emails that kindly pointed out factual errors and typos. Kevin Daum from “Inc.” encouraged the audience to think differently when it comes to employing millennials too: “We don’t understand anything about them. They will teach us about themselves, but first we have to be willing to listen.” If they have a talent, yes, they want to be able to apply it right away. But it’s not a matter of not wanting to pay their dues. Employers aren’t putting the same kind of infrastructure in place that allows employees to pay their dues. We’re too busy to invest in formal training. We’ve neglected mentorships, apprenticeships, job shadowing opportunities, etc. The process must change for millennials, or they will suffer and so will our businesses as a result.