Getting Strategic in 2016

Graphic: © Digital Juice

Graphic: © Digital Juice

This week, I’m in the middle of my annual Strategic Retreat. For each of the past several years, I dedicate a few days during the last week of the year to reflect back on the previous year and plan a strategy for the upcoming one, both personally and professionally.

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The process begins with at least part of one day spent reviewing my entire calendar to write down accomplishments and compare how results measured up to the goals set at last year’s Retreat. (You DO set measurable goals, right?) Notice I don’t say “resolutions” because research shows that less than 10 percent of people stick to those. Instead, I set goals and come up with a theme for each year. Previous themes have included:

  • 2011: Strategic
  • 2012: Leverage
  • 2013: Connections
  • 2014: Catalyst (with the tagline “Fresh Perspectives”)
  • 2015: Believe
  • And for 2016: Focus

Each of these words guides how I plan my year and what I choose to do or not do. For example, during 2013 I focused on not only making new connections, but also how I could connect those within my network to each other. This provides a North Star of sorts for the entire year. It also provides a place to come back to when I realize I’ve been drug off course by circumstances or other people’s demands. Being strategic means not only big-picture planning, but also course-correcting as needed. Without a strategy to guide you, life tends to become one never-ending game of whack-a-mole!

Now does this mean that once you have a strategy everything goes smoothly? Not exactly! Sometimes life (or other people) seem to be working overtime to pull you away from your mission and goals. This year has been one of those times for me, what with moving and a series of family health issues … which is one reason I chose “Focus” for 2016. I have a tendency to be easily distracted by what’s demanding my attention today at the loss of long-range projects and goals, which continue to get put on the back burner.

So how can you stay strategic in the midst of chaos? One way is to rely on a planner system. For me, I prefer a weekly version … and yes, I still use paper. While my appointment calendar is digital, my to-do lists and plans just seem to be more concrete when written down and laying in front of me on my desk. In that self-designed planner are the following categories or sections:

  • Monthly goals – including books to read, courses to study, systems to put in place, and projects to complete
  • Monthly blog calendar with themes, topics, and a social media tracker
  • Weekly planning pages – including daily action lists, people to contact, marketing strategies, challenges, successes, and results

Another primary way to remain strategic is to evaluate everything that’s on your plate. Do a brain dump of everything you have to get done in the next 90 days (or month, if that’s too overwhelming). Often simply the action of writing things down gives you some perspective. But then go back through the list to evaluate which are high priority items that only you can do, then break them down into manageable tasks. Next take a look at what’s left to see what can be delegated or dumped – you may be surprised!

No matter what, don’t let turning that calendar page to January cause you to feel stressed before the year even begins. Take some time over the next few days to evaluate what you want to accomplish in 2016, either personally or professionally, then map out a strategy to achieve it. And if you need a little help, take advantage of some of the free exhibitor tools available in the Exhibit Marketers Café, including the “GPS Your Exhibit Marketing” webinar and “YES in 15” weekly tips (which each take less than 15 minutes to implement). For show managers, check out the “3 Keys to Become Your Exhibitors’ Hero” mini-webinar. And if you need more customized help with your trade show strategy, contact me about one-on-one consulting options to help make 2016 your most successful year yet!

© 2015 Marlys K. Arnold  (from the December 2015 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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