This was the New Year’s resolution I received from my German Ebeltoft Group colleague. Today is January 19th and exactly one year ago I made my last flight from New York. The trip to the Big Show by the NRF should have been the start of a year full of traveling. We had planned two inspiration trips to China and city trips to Berlin, London, Milan, New York, Rome, San Francisco, São Paulo, Seattle and Tokyo. Since October 2019 I’m chairman of the Ebeltoft Group, an international alliance of independent brand & retail consultancies. This appointment would also have resulted in more traveling. But it all turned into a self guided training in Google Meets, GoToWebinar, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, WebinarGeek, Zoom, and I’m probably missing two to three other applications.
No traveling, but screens. No physical events, but screens. No store tours, but screens. No meetings, but screens. No physical lectures and trainings, but screens. Actually, we learned going digital overnight. On Thursday our lockdown got in place and on Friday I had to run classes at the University of Amsterdam via Microsoft Teams. On Thursday morning I didn’t even know what Microsoft Teams was. Two weeks later, we had our first webinar ever: Thoughtful Thursday. Up to now we already had over 50 webinars. We had our first ever digital global partner meeting early April 2020 and since then many digital meetings within the Ebeltoft Group followed. At Q&A we digitalized our business with our digital events, as did many of our global partners, and we created a digital platform where our retail & brand community can find the latest trends, but also webinars, podcasts and relevant reports. For sure we are looking forward to the time we can meet in person again, but we truly believe that the future will be blended. Not everybody will travel all the time and can therefore join in digitally.
2021 will be the crossover year, where we hopefully can meet physically again at the end of the year, we may be travelling again and will be hosting more of our events in blended formats. If I have to summarize 2020 in one word, it is adapt. That’s not only what our team did at Q&A, but also all our global partners at the Ebeltoft Group adapted to the new normal. I’m proud of my team, my fellow board-members and all the Ebbers. The flexibility that everybody showed during the last year was heart-warming, and the energy and dedication showed was great to experience. Even when we were not able to see each other live, I believe we got closer than ever before.
It's strange to have a full year without live meetings, without travels and without inspiration abroad. We have missed you all so much and we know this will stay for the foreseeable future, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The light is getting closer, but don’t forget we are still in the tunnel. But as my German colleague said: it’s not a train. And if it is, I’m holding him accountable.