Imagine if you had to change your whole business strategy within a month. This would demand a massive shift, so you’d have to divide the budget again and invest in new tactics in which you have no experience. This seems like a leap into the unknown. All the methods you’d been working on and polishing might turn out to be outdated, even though they were prospering a few weeks back.
Many brands don’t have to picture such a situation. Due to the pandemic outbreak and an accelerated shift to digital, it’s becoming a new normality for lots of businesses. Along with these aspects, companies have had to adjust to new conditions.
Conferences, expos, and other different business events are forbidden, so many of them have moved to digital. Although it’s becoming common practice, lots of brands are still unsure about running their events online.
What are the psychological reasons for this hesitation? Is it reasonable, or does fear perhaps make things seem worse than they really are?
The psychology behind fear of change
The year 2020 has finally come to an end, and it’s fair to say that it was a challenging time for everybody. The social and economic situation has changed vastly for many, along with everyday habits. Companies had to switch entirely to online or implement at least some new digital solutions, and those changes might be mentally taxing.
Coming out of the comfort zone
Everyone has probably experienced a feeling of insecurity at least once in their life when starting something new, and the change seemed to be drastic. There’s nothing odd about feeling a lack of comfort in modern reality and the new conditions that it dictates.
Most people fear changes, but are able to overcome these anxieties and even start from the bottom. From a psychological point of view this is normal behavior, and it’s related to stepping outside one’s comfort zone. However, there are a small number of cases where fear intensifies, and those people feel paralyzed with visions of change. It’s called metathesiophobia, and its distinctive feature is that the feeling of anxiety is so hyperbolized that it’s just unreal.
Why do we fear the unknown? The neuroscience perspective
None of us like to fail, especially in the business field. And this can hold us back from taking risks and seizing opportunities.
Neuroscience studies have discovered that, in our brains, uncertainty feels similar to failure. This agrees with Tim Ferriss’ saying that people would rather be unhappy than uncertain. This second feeling is perceived by our brains like an error that needs to be corrected immediately. That’s why we tend to avoid challenging situations and changes if possible.
Fear is also connected with the possible negative consequences of taking risks. We think of what we might lose as a result of change. This visualization affects our actions and makes us unable to start over or implement new strategies in our lives. We try to protect ourselves from failures - we choose prevention over risk.
This path of thinking seems reasonable, but it holds us back from seizing some upcoming opportunities. In the context of the new economic reality, the outcome might be even more dramatic. Brands might be pushed out by those competitors who are able to adapt to market demands.
Working with the neuroplasticity of the brain
Hopefully, there are ways to help you unwind and see the future in brighter colors. Some methods are worth trying in your personal life, and some might help you to introduce innovations in your company.
What is neuroplasticity and how can you benefit from it?
Neuroplasticity is quite a new concept that differs from past studies. It describes the brain’s ability to change and reorganize its neural connections in response to stimulations that are part of the learning process and gaining experience.
That means our body is able to create new neurons and the links between them.
What matters for us from this academic definition is that we have an impact on how our brains work, and that we can “train” them to focus on positive aspects. There’s an array of factors that have a huge impact on the neurogenesis process of both stimulators and inhibitors, and we influence the vast majority of them.
The theory of the flexible brain
Besides the fear of losing what they already have, humans seek peace in their own knowledge and habits. If a routine is disrupted, then there might be a resultant fear that affects calmness. This can cause overthinking and making up non-existent scenarios related to the future. Our brains naturally tend to focus on the bad things and, whenever we let them do so, our receptors memorize this as an automatic reaction. It is a scheme that harms our bodies and minds, and thus leads us to avoiding taking risks.
The only way to overcome the fear of change is to dedicate time and attention to our bodies and mental conditions. Although the web is full of short-term hacks to help you feel better in a specific moment, they will only provide temporary relief.
To achieve long-lasting results, working on our reactions and perceptions of challenges that can make a difference to a mindset. The key is to focus on the positive aspects and things that we can control.
As Ian Cleary says, “we need to create specific wiring of what we want to achieve which is ‘competitive wiring’ to the problem.”
By training our brains to stay present in the moment and thinking rationally, we can build new thinking schemes that will become automatic reactions to the new risks and opportunities that happen in life all the time.
Taking the business perspective
More good news? Although the fear of change might stop a brand from expanding in the business field, it’s easier to overcome it by supporting team leaders. Discussions, analysis of studies and data, as well as implementing new automation tools to be less overwhelmed are just a few things that one can do.
One for all and all for one
Fear of change applies to a single person rather than to a whole team. You’re not alone with decision-making in a company, and you can always rely on expert opinions. Even if you’re running a brand all by yourself, you can seek the advice of employees or CEOs of other companies. Follow their steps until you feel confident enough to make decisions on your own.
Shifting to digital
Avoiding risks doesn't eliminate them from our lives. It just makes us blind to dangers and reduces our vigilance. That’s why when many companies adjust their actions to the market, it’s rational that you should do so too.
However, relying solely on your research might not be enough when it comes to deciding to move a whole event online. There are many factors to take into account when creating the digital equivalents of particular elements of a conference or festival.
Tools that smooth out the digital switch process
Automation tools can help with monitoring the results of actions and improving them. If the only thing you see when thinking about moving an event online is chaos, you should look for apps to organize the whole process.
There are many types of software systems that are worth investing in to save time and reduce stress. Every event is different and requires comprehensive assistance. This should include marketing campaigns (Kontentino), video streaming (LiveWebinar), team management (Asana, Trello), and mailing (MailChimp, HubSpot), among others. Focus on the strategy, delegate tasks, and keep an eye on the project without unnecessary tension.
Big events are already online
The cultural industry has felt a significant decrease in income as many countries were forced to shut down museums, theatres, and other institutions. Also, the business sector has had to deal with event cancellations. That’s what has driven leaders to host their internationally famous events online.
Experience Tomorrowland from your living room
As artists can no longer perform their jobs in the traditional way, more and more performances are moving to digital. This applies to film and music festivals, as well as concerts and cinema projections.
One of the world’s dance mega-fests, Tomorrowland, was moved online in summer 2020. It featured eight stages with performances by international dance music stars. Besides the flagship, perennial show on the main stage, the organizers wanted to keep the event's interactive character with games, workshops, and educational talks. Anyone who bought a ticket could participate via computer, tablet, or smartphone. The festival was “time-zone friendly” to enable everyone around the world to take part in it.
World famous business events from your office
Conferences were always an opportunity to meet new people from the industry, gain leads, and find co-workers. Some companies weren’t afraid of hosting expos online, and here are the results of their decisions.
- Infoshare - he biggest tech conference in CEE was streamed in September from Gdańsk. Over 200 speeches performed by world business leaders weren't the only benefit. Depending on their ticket types (a few tiers of pricing were available), attendees could take part in workshops and meet others during matchmaking. The event attracted 7,542 participants and was held entirely online via the LiveWebinar platform.
- Apple is making its annual Worldwide Developer Conference a fully online experience. The company claims they will have “millions” of attendees instead of the tens of thousands who usually attend this event in-person.
- Some other examples of world leaders and their events that were hosted digitally are: Cisco Live, Adobe Summit, Dell World, Forrester, Microsoft Build, Nvidia GPU Technology Conference, and Salesforce World Tour Sydney.
P.S. Here you can find out more about best practices during digital events and leading a web summit.
Moving online is a sound & future-oriented practice
There are many reasons for moving online, but it requires a whole new article to explore this subject.
The first step to overcome an irrational fear of change is to be aware that it's just a feeling of insecurity that has no reasonable ground. Then analyze potential risks by carrying out thorough research and have professional expertise. While working on your own methods of dealing with fear, think of the bigger picture and keep in mind what's best for your company. Set your goals and invest in a robust webinar platform that has useful integrations to take advantage of. And finally, look up success stories, attend other brands' events, and see what tactics deliver the best digital experience.
As you can see, many brands have already switched to digital. Now it's your turn to determine what's holding you back.