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Hello 2021! 5 Things We’re Looking Forward To This Upcoming Year

Let’s face it — even Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted the curveballs that were thrown to us in 2020!

Because Profitable Association Inc. has made a name for itself within the association space as an expert in event sponsorship sales, one of our biggest challenges in 2020 was helping our clients navigate the “new normal” (so to speak) and adapt as needed. This included everything from postponing conferences with thousands of scheduled attendees and millions of dollars in anticipated revenue, to developing and hosting “virtual” events for those same audiences with just a few months of planning.

That said, it’s safe to say we’ve learned a little bit about how to pivot an in-person conference to a virtual or hybrid one, or how to create a series of virtual webinars from scratch. But the pandemic will live on into 2021, and there’s still more for us to learn and examine.

So without further ado, here are 5 things we’re looking forward to as the clock strikes midnight tonight — courtesy of your friends here at Profitable Association Inc.!

In 2021, I am looking forward to new and fresh partnership models continuing to evolve. Some positives that came out of 2020 are that associations have a heightened focus and a greater sense of urgency for their non-dues revenue category overall. They have also embraced out of necessity technology and innovation like never before. Associations have become much more inclusive of the supporting stakeholders as they have experienced the quick shifts together – from the live (canceled) events to new virtual environments – with many lessons learned.  As we enter this new year, associations are more keenly aware of their own value and the importance of value that can be extended to supporting solution providers in their community. They have had to listen, learn, respond, and deliver quickly. They are also more creative and open to new models that offer real value like thought leadership, education, and special or targeted access. From the previous paradigms and long-static value hierarchy (e.g. across one-off events with exhibitors and sponsors), the importance of offering a new dynamic partner marketplace delivered across the full year is becoming evident as vital for an association to thrive in the post-pandemic new order.   

I'm looking forward to seeing how we can utilize some of the emerging technologies necessitated by the virus so we can work from home in the future, even when travel is opened up again. There should be some hybrid angles for events in the future that can be harnessed, which will continue to open up further sponsorship opportunities and potentially larger audiences. Content, as it has in the past, will be even more critical. The most engaging applicable content will get the most attendees no matter if the event is in-person or via your screen. Maybe there will be some sort of robot analog for remote attendees that can whirl around the receptions like the one Phil Dunphy built on the TV show "Modern Family" so people can network with others that way!

Now that we've been living in pandemic-world for a few months, I'm curious to know if any organizations found virtual events to their benefit and/or may stick with a virtual and/or hybrid model moving forward. Was it something that worked better for their members? Did the platform(s) they used make a difference? What about their marketing efforts? By now, we should have enough data that we can figure out some patterns about whether or not the event marketing industry will come back to the same extent as it did prior to the pandemic.

Travel for learning, travel to friends, travel for fun! For me, I look forward to earning and redeeming my frequent flyer miles from my affinity credit card towards travel to a conference and seeing my industry friends, learning, and laughing. While Zoom-ing is a fine way to communicate, it is not the same as being face-to-face (even mask-to-mask) as being with people. As a human, we like to network, talk and hang out with real, live people (even members of the Coroners Association or the Funeral Workers Association crave this!) I love loyalty reward and affinity programs and I miss earning points at restaurants, local bars, and micro-breweries and can't wait to sit and relax with friends, business partners and family breaking bread together. It will happen and while I don't believe we will go back to something like it was before March 2020 I do believe we will all craft a new version of the life ahead. Will we all flock back to offices and cubicles? Or to crowded commutes and traffic? Not sure, but I know we will start to meet up, travel, explore and take steps together to rebuild our industries and associations. Right now, many associations are stepping up to the challenges and re-inventing the value they bring their members. They are defining a new relevance, planning forward not in a holding pattern, instead in an outward reaching and thinking phase. Join this journey in a new form of affinity taking place. One based on relevance, in brining value 365 days a year not just 3 days. Only blue sky ahead and frequent flyer miles!

I am looking forward to companies and people moving away from operating reactively in 2020 to more proactively in 2021. This past year instilled fear in the minds of individuals, businesses, and associations, etc. and I am looking forward to moving away from that and back to a place where actions and decisions are being made rationally based on logic and strategy, with growth and the future in mind. The total shutdown of the economy and people's lives cost our society a great deal in many ways that we probably have yet to even discover. More than anything, it brought everything to a screeching halt and in turn, put everything and everyone on the defensive; this was the downfall of many companies and I can't wait until we have moved past it. In order to grow and move forward, companies need to operate with the future in mind and that way of thinking will be more important in 2021 than ever before.

What are you looking forward to? Sound off in the comments below. 

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