Last week we talked about stepping out of the information shower, and that the best way to do that is by getting and staying organized. Today we take it a step further.
Being overloaded by information and communication is frustrating but not inevitable. If you can spot significant trends in your industry, you can cut down on extraneous information that competes for your attention. Let me explain.
Most of what reaches our eyes and ears is not critical to functioning effectively, either professionally or personally. Much of what we’re exposed to, even within our own fields, represents heightened trivia, fads or passing fancies. Long-term, significant trends are relatively easy to spot and monitor, with a few simple guidelines.
Years in the making
Significant trends are usually long-term developments. The U.S. population’s propensity toward being overweight, for example, was discernible in the early 1980s. The same is true of increased world travel and the miniaturization of technology. When you identify a trend like this, whether it’s global, national, social or industry specific, consider how it will impact your field in these areas:
- How businesses or organizations operate
- How executives and managers lead
- How supervisors will be impacted
- How front-line workers will be impacted
- How operations might change
An example: Will attendees at your next meeting expect coverage of late-breaking issues? Will they expect more of an electronic interface before, during and after sessions?
How about me?
Consider what economic or financial implications might result, what new opportunities might arise and what new risks could emerge. On an individual level, ask yourself these questions:
- Acknowledging what I believe will occur, what are my optimal action steps?
- How can I capitalize on my understanding of this trend?
- What benefits can I bring to my organization, department, boss and team?
- In what capacity can I serve?
- Should I act as a harbinger to others?
- Can I provide training or instruction?
- Should I prepare a concept paper, fact sheet or executive briefing for people who need to be informed?
An example: Have you learned something about the typical attendee that might change how to reach them, what to offer and/or how to package your event?
Ask yourself what courses of action are worth taking, given that 1.) the trend proceeds as you envision it; 2.) it proceeds more quickly; or 3.) it proceeds with less impact or at a slower place than what seemed likely. When you do this, you can engage in scenario thinking — plotting three paths based on the overall length, strength and impact the trend will have.
Devising these scenarios will better prepare you to embark upon a course of action as time marches forward, and the nature and impact of the trend become more evident.
An example: If the economy is weak, does it make sense to lower your conference registration fee and try to make up the lost revenue with more registrants?
Consider what else might be impacted if this trend takes hold, and what its downstream effects might be. In other words: “Given that XYZ will occur in full bloom over the next two years, what other trends could be set in motion?”
An example: America’s climb toward obesity has impacted the clothing industry, food manufacturers, transportation providers, health care administrators, government regulators, health clubs and the home entertainment industry, among others.
How might your industry, organization, department, boss, team and co-workers be further impacted by trends stemming from the original trend you tracked? Yes, your inquiry will involve some conjecture. But you will be better off than if you didn’t consider the ramifications. Forewarned is forearmed.
Avoid the ‘sensation du jour’
Keeping tabs on significant trends helps you filter your personal information intake. Rather than being buffeted by ceaseless media attempts to make something out of nothing, you’ll find yourself relying more on the highest-quality industry and news sources, as well as a handful of knowledgeable others with whom you can regularly share information.
It is possible to largely avoid being bombarded by the merry-go-round of headlines and information to which you’re exposed. The best and the brightest in your industry have already developed systems for identifying what’s truly important and what’s best left by the curb.
What do you do to stay on top of all the information you receive as a meeting planner? Please share your tips in the comment section below.