Editorial: Tuning Up The Crystal Ball

By Len Monheit

My crystal ball is a bit fuzzy – how’s yours?

Making sense of current issues and events and placing them in a meaningful context that sheds light on the future is an uncertain process at best. Yet some individuals not only drive future trends and direction, they always seem to be exactly at the right place at the right time. This combination of vision, savvy and plain luck makes them the envy of their peers, and certainly bodes well for the companies they represent. Often, these individuals draw too from outside the sector, grasping parallels and potential in marketplaces and geographies currently not even remotely connected to our daily business operations.

Let’s switch gears for a second.

It’s been evident for some time that the same old, me-too industry events have lost their luster. I’ve written on this issue numerous times – each event must have a distinct value-add for a very defined target audience, and when we overlay new information delivery formats such as webinars, new event choices as sectors and categories converge, and it’s probably pretty fair to say that something’s got to give – eventually. In the meantime though, one must carefully consider agenda and audience, both for current and future business prospects as one plans the organization’s event calendar.

That brings me specifically to an upcoming event that I’ve participated in for five years now, the NBJ Newport Summit. While I’m certainly going to plug this event, (it’s given me and NPIcenter an immeasurable boost in contact reach, credibility and understanding of the business of the industry), I want to focus a bit on how it attempts to deliver new value year after year in a dramatically changing environment.

The “Summit” essentially delivers high value, high level novel content and a high powered networking experience. For some industry executives, it’s the only event that they attend, and they do so in a relaxed environment, knowing that they’ll be taken to a new level intellectually, and participate, peer-to-peer. This peer-to-peer aspect is quite interesting as the Summit has adopted its presentation to a much more interactive and participative format, with breakout sessions, and this year, a power networking luncheon developed along selected themes (Incubator Capital, China Market, Transitioning Supplements to Food and food to Supplements).

I’m especially intrigued by some of the content themes being presented, as I believe they represent some of the cutting big-picture strategic issues we face as an industry or a set of sub-sectors. From “Solving the Distribution Puzzle” to “Crossing the Chasm- Making the Transition Between Industry Segments” to the “Inside Track on Dealing with the Media”, discussions will be lively and thought provoking, and led in many cases by executives on the ground floor, rather than by self-proclaimed experts talking in loose theoretical language. The focus on Asia and the global marketplace should be especially insightful. I know from our experience on NPIcenter with Paul Yamaguchi’s column on Japan that interest in Asia is high both from a trending standpoint, but also for the determination of new business opportunities and strategies. Companies that get that marketplace and a global strategy right will have serious clout and the leverage to withstand any localized downturns or threats.

Starting with the industry awards presentations (this presentation provides a great indicator of industry direction), and concluding with the golf or surfing events (and yes, I have even done that once), there are several busy, insightful days involved in the Summit that for many, provide the best bang for buck in the industry.

My crystal ball does need a tune-up. For me, that’s part of what the Summit does.

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