New York University business professor and New York Times bestselling author Scott Galloway spent the pandemic looking at how COVID-19 was impacting businesses. His brand-new book, Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity, is the culmination of that analysis. Some businesses, like the powerful tech monopolies, he writes, will thrive as a result of the disruption. Others, like higher ed, will struggle to maintain a value proposition in a new reality.
And what about the business of events? Galloway told Convene that planners should get ready to be bold, because that’s what attendees will expect in this next normal. “If attendees want to incur the hassle, the expense, and what they perceive as some risk, the event better be really solid,” Galloway said. “It better be inspiring.”
Galloway hopes to inspire Convening Leaders 2022 participants to find opportunities in the post-pandemic business industry during his afternoon keynote session on Monday, Jan. 10. He gave Convene a preview of the insights he will be sharing. Convening Leaders takes place Jan. 9-12 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas and online.
Why did you think it was important to write Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity?
Like a lot of people, I thought that there would be huge shifts in the economy. I wanted to write a book that would attempt to kind of look around the corner. And I would say the major surprise doing research on it was that few things were changing, but everything was accelerated. The key discovery or insights in the book is that COVID’s enduring feature will be its role as an accelerant more than a change agent.
Have you seen the pandemic act as an accelerant in the business event space?
Sure. Three years ago, I was invited to speak at a conference in Hamburg [Germany] and there was a huge weather storm in the Northeast and I couldn’t get there. And they said, okay, we’ll do a remote on Zoom and [the event organizers] put me on a screen on stage. That was three years ago, but it was just starting. And now, obviously, we’re back to what I would call a state of semi-normal, [but] I would say 90 percent of my presentations now are virtual and that’s had a huge impact. And to a certain extent, speaking at conferences is a metaphor for larger, bigger shifts across a lot of industries.
So, what do you have? It’s a dispersion that has taken place across every industry. … where I’m the creator of this intellectual property and I get to disperse to more consumers or more customers and at a lower cost. And that’s kind of what happens when there’s digitization and innovation. Now what happens is, and I know this is arrogant, but kind of the tier-one speakers, of which I’m in right now because of my book — more people have access to us, because A, we just have more supply, and B, our costs are cut 50 percent. Demand goes up dramatically. So, all of a sudden, I have a lot more gigs and conferences. A whole new customer base has opened up and will consider having me because my fees are now 50 percent of what they used to be.
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So that’s great for the end client, the conference holder. It’s great for me because I’m in demand and I can do twice as many or four times as many gigs with half the effort. … But the tier-two guys are getting crushed, because the guys that used to charge 50 percent of what I charged are now getting zero. Their typical customer can now get tier one. And this is what happens in almost any category. It’s digitization and innovation. There’s a consolidation. Digital provides more clients. Digital essentially provides more consumers with access to the top-tier offering.
What do you foresee for the future of in-person business events as we hopefully move toward the end of the pandemic?
With everything, whether it’s work or school or conferences, we have a tendency to want to process information and bifurcate it into zero or one. Okay, all conferences will be all virtual, or all conferences will be back to normal and in person. And the reality is that it’s neither of those things. And that is, it’s hard to imagine any big conference now not having a virtual component. But at the same time, I think the most notable, iconic conferences will in fact bring people together because there’s fortunately just nothing like it. But what they will have, though, is that almost all will have a virtual component and hopefully some of the additional expense and complexity [that comes with hybrid meetings] will be made up for by the fact that it’s X dollars to attend in person and it’s [a lower fee] to watch it online.
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There won’t be as many [in-person conferences], because the smaller and medium-sized ones will probably be done virtually. And the big ones will have a thousand people in person, or 400 people in person and 1,400 online. But again, if you had envisioned what conferences would look like in 10 years, three years ago — your vision would have been something similar to what they will look like next year. I think what you’ll find with companies and organizations that are in the conference business is that they’re going to spend the same amount of money. They’re just going to spend more across fewer conferences.
What do you want Convening Leaders attendees take away from your keynote session?
I think that there is going to be what I’ll call “The Great Reshuffling.” And that is, there’s going to be a dramatic reshuffling of stakeholder values in every sector, in someplace or another. Dispersion is the phenomenon, but the net result is there’s going to be more transfer of stakeholder value within sectors than we’ve seen in a long time. And what I think I would ask everyone to think about is, take the three most important trends in your business and then the three most important trends in your personal life. Take them out 10 years and ask yourself: Are we here right now and we just don’t acknowledge it? Take the most important things in your life and say: What is the trend here?
I think it’s useful to do the 10-year test. Where would everything likely be in 10 years? Well, imagine you’re there right now — because you may be.
Casey Gale is an associate editor at Convene.