he romantic in me loves New Year's Eve. There's something about the idea of change and rebirth that prompts hopeful resolutions to be happier, healthier, smarter, or more focused in the year to come. But the realist in me is a bit more cynical. Because despite what Ryan Seacrest might have us believe, there's nothing magical about the moment one year ends and another begins that makes dreams come true.
I'm not suggesting that resolving to make oneself "better" in one way or another isn't valuable – regardless of whether the attempt is successful. But too many of us approach our resolutions like tossing coins in a fountain. We take a deep breath, close our eyes, and wish. But wishing is hardly tantamount to resolving.
According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, a wish is a desire, craving, or longing. A resolution, on the other hand, is a "decision as to future action." Therefore, you can't resolve to "accomplish more at work" or "become healthier." Those are wishes for an end result. A resolution is a series of steps or behaviors you pledge to complete to achieve a desired outcome.
So what does all this have to do with trade shows and events? I suppose it depends on how closely your wishes for 2015 align with the "work" side of that elusive work/life balance you've likely resolved to recalibrate. But a resolution without action items is like an ill-defined exhibit-marketing objective. Resolving to "spend more quality time with family" is as intangible and impossible to measure as going into a trade show hoping to "build relationships." There's no road map on how to achieve either lofty goal, and no ruler with which to measure success or failure. But most importantly, that goal will remain a pipe dream unless it first becomes a plan of attack, just as that wish is unlikely to be granted without an actionable resolution.
That's because while wishes are all about magic and fairy dust, resolutions are generally about hard work. And part of the hard work is determining exactly how to go about achieving your objectives. Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to participate in a Lean Six Sigma Orange Belt for Exhibitors certification program. During one part of the multiday workshop our instructor and Master Black Belt Sensei Martin Smith explained how to create a "migration plan." A sort of process map that documents your current state and long-range goals, the migration plan also denotes steps that must be met at certain points in time to achieve the desired outcome. In essence, a migration plan is a bridge between a simple wish and a full-fledged New Year's resolution.
Say that you're currently working 60 hours per week, and your goal for 2015 is to bring that down to 45. Your migration plan might include incremental quarterly steps (such as outsourcing certain tasks, streamlining particular processes, etc.) that must be met sequentially and by a certain time to help you stay on track toward meeting your objective. Or if your New Year's resolutions have less to do with work/life balance and more to do with your program's ROI, you might aspire to increase lead counts or decrease per-show expenses. Similarly, a migration plan would help you plot a course while simultaneously breaking one lofty goal into more manageable, less daunting miniature goals.
Granted, migration plans are not magic wands. Whether you aspire to increase show-related sales by 15 percent or drop 15 pounds, the journey toward that endgame is going to require some serious effort. But if the romantic in you has some pie-in-the-sky resolutions for the New Year, make sure the realist in you is busy developing a migration plan or you're unlikely to turn those resolutions