Across every niche in the spectrum of the events industry, the tenet of our business model is to bring people together. Event professionals may specialize in using different ways to achieve this — through entertainment events, sporting events, corporate events, nonprofit events, etc. — and innovating in the experiential design for our respective gatherings. But at the root of it all, none of the events industry would exist if it were not for this one core concept that drives human societies: convening power.
Of all the powers of the world — whether it be political power, purchasing power, physical power, brainpower, horsepower, you name it — convening power is the one perhaps most elusive to comprehend and certainly most difficult to replicate. Unlike most other powers, there is by definition no objectivity to convening power. An issue that has tremendous convening power at one moment could lose all its relevance the next. Same can be said of people with convening power, brands, locations, and activities. Because exercising convening power depends on the subjectivities of the people we’re trying to convene, it is the job of event producers across all niches to always stay abreast of what people care about, what’s relevant to them, and with all the digital enablements of the 21st Century, why people would want to convene in a physical gathering.
I believe that like any other industry, it would behoove the events industry to put more focus on branding the products we create. It’s easy to call an event just an event — name a date, or a place, or a catchy name that would really serve better as a subtitle caption — but the institutions that have truly thrived in the events industry are those who have branded their convening power over the course of decades of reliable iterations of a product. The World Economic Forum. The South by Southwest. The TED Conference. Coachella. The Olympic Games. None of these institutions would have the convening power that they have in the world if all society had to associate with were their founders and the fact that these founders produced great annual events. Like how anything else in capitalist society evolved, the brands have played instrumental roles for people to resonate with the product.
We’ve done a number of explorations over the past months of media companies starting to become event producers, typically calling their event products by some name along the lines of “live media”. It’s interesting to see the apparent dichotomy of these two business models be integrated into individual companies. Media has traditionally been about dispersion: to spread news and distribute content to as wide a reach as possible. Events on the other hand has always been about drawing people to the source; like a magnet, if you will, whereas media is like a grenade. We share the same challenge with the media industry in always needing to be abreast of relevant issues. But the challenge of needing to build convening power is one unique to the events industry.
A powerful media company that moves into event production has already spent years and decades building its convening power with its dispersion of contents, and the gatherings by these companies like Forbes or Fortune or The Wall Street Journal are typically the same set of people who are their readers and subjects. An event brand startup on the other hand, has to figure out some combination of factors that can create a unique community in the world by bringing people together for unique reasons and gathering them in unique ways.
See you at the next exploration!