Just as many around the world were feeling the impacts of impending shutdowns, my business was rocked with a major shift. Within the first weeks of the pandemic, a year’s worth of live keynote speeches and seminars were suddenly canceled. Like an earthquake, the reality of a rapidly changing market had shaken the business I’d nurtured for over 30 years to its core. These live events, which had been the backbone of my business, had evaporated overnight… and I was stuck.
Still reeling in disbelief, I called a meeting. As our team gathered virtually, I asked the only question I could think of, “How will we replace this revenue?” Everyone chimed in offering their ideas, but with so much uncertainty, nothing seemed to fit. We were stymied. Just then, it occurred to me: go back to the basics. As we revisited our five core values: consumer centricity, empathy, creativity, positivity, and curiosity, we realized something: we had been asking the wrong question.
Instead of asking, “How can we replace this revenue?” we should have been asking, “How can we serve our clients?” After all, the last thing our customers were thinking was, “How can I spend more money?” This wasn’t the time for an ask. So we contacted all of our customers over the next few days and offered our help. Facilitating free sessions and inviting customers to share new insights and best practices, we helped them grow together. Offering virtual lunch-and-learns with timely content like, “The Adaptive Seller,” “A Party Without Pants”, “How to reHumanize the Sales Process in a Digital World,” and “The Four Pillars of an Effective Virtual Training and Coaching Program”, we helped our clients not just increase skill, but foster a sense of teamwork and community amidst isolation. And even though I found myself missing the hugs, the energy, and togetherness of past live events, I felt the same sense of purpose.
I began to brainstorm other ways we could support our clients and I realized that despite the overwhelming uncertainty and change, we hadn’t been impacted as severely as I thought. We were actually very fortunate and so were our clients. In fact, many of them had taken advantage of our virtual learning long before “going virtual” became a necessity. But now, rather than leveraging online learning as a follow-up, clients were using it differently. We saw teams training, growing, and staying accountable even while physically distanced.
As we worked to design new solutions, we remained focused on our values. Designing a different type of interactive virtual experience to replace our live events, we hired experts, took courses, and then performed beta tests with our best clients. We knew we couldn’t simply take what we did live and deliver it on a Zoom meeting.
In a virtual event, people’s attention spans are much shorter than if they were in a convention center or hotel ballroom. We knew we needed to increase interest by mixing things up, adding elements of surprise, and including the audience as much as possible.
The result? We created virtual rock shows complete with themes, contests, breakout rooms, collaboration, and real life case studies. Said one of our recent clients in the technology space:
“We thought Shari was dynamic live, but this event took virtual learning to a completely new level of interactivity, fun, and learning for our team! After just one event, one of our new reps closed a 250,000 sale!”
It’s been 3 months since losing a year of live keynote speeches and seminars. Even though I still don’t have a crystal ball and I’m still not sure how it all will play out, I now have more clarity than ever. As much as this has been a crisis, it’s been an opportunity to learn and grow.
The cliff notes? When things are unclear, go back to the basics. Revisit your foundation and connect with your values. Reflection demands humility, self-awareness, and courage. It requires the humility to challenge your assumptions and to admit that you may be wrong. It takes the courage to ask difficult questions and choose compassion and creation over selfishness and scarcity. Only when we tune inward to understand and integrate our own emotions and fears, can we turn outward to alleviate pain, support others, and ultimately energize our team around shared values. In a time of crisis, building new skills matters, but building character matters more.
Interested in working together? Reach out to me here.