Coronavirus and Meetings
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As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise and global concern escalates, organizations are questioning the impact on their business — particularly in the meetings and travel realm. Now is the time for our business to invest in the future, according to Vikram Mansharamani, a global trend-watcher, Harvard lecturer, author and economist who delivered a powerful keynote address this morning for Northstar Meetings Group’s SMU International.
"Social unrest, trade wars, currency wars and of course pandemic or risk of disease-related disruptions -- all of this is real and it’s happening right now," Mansharamani told the 325 SMU participants at the New York Marriott Marquis. "You can’t deny it … This is a turbulent time, but there's always been turbulence. That’s not the issue. The issue is how you think about it."
In his presentation, which was sponsored by Goodman Speakers, Mansharamani focused on ways to navigate global uncertainty. He discussed key concerns happening now that promise to continue to disrupt our world: our relationship with China, technology, changing demographics and energy. On the horizon, he foresees economic deflation, growing income inequality and widespread political unrest. As meeting planners face our industry's latest threat, the novel coronavirus, Mansharamani advised taking a longer-term view of business. "The blunt reality is we don't really care where we are. We want to know where we're going. We need to look forward."
He addressed pressing questions from the buyers and suppliers in attendance. Some highlights:
Q. What should we being doing now, in the short term?
At times that are really challenging, the game should be that we want to get through it strategically. Invest in ways that can actually accelerate the recovery. Invest in relationships. Actually, a meeting like this is really productive. You can do smaller events with higher impact. Show people that there are opportunities to be had when business comes back. You can really take advantage of it. Be more efficient, be better, for when business does return. We don't know when and how that will happen, but we know it will.
Q. We’re looking at this as a temporary setback. Do you think that when things get back to normal there will be a big boom in business because so much was put on hold?
I would love to tell you yes. It would be nice to say that when this melts away it all comes back with a bang and it's going to be fabulous. I don't know if that's true. But I do think that if you can plan to survive in times of real challenge, then as things get better you'll be able to thrive. Survive so that you have the opportunity to thrive.
Q. In a climate of uncertainty, and as technology threatens jobs in some industries, how do we continue to engage employees and keep them motivated?
When you start thinking long term, what you realize is people are going to remain an asset. And despite the job loss from technology, people are in fact the main asset and will become more and more valuable. And so, I think companies will continue to invest more in people, not less, over time. The idea of retaining people longer through incentives will, I think, become more and more popular.
Vickram Mansharamani’s forthcoming book, Think for Yourself, details the critical importance of self-reliant thinking in a data-driven, tech-dependent and overwhelmingly uncertain world. To be published June 16, the book is now available for pre-orders.