How I Gauge When Things Will “Return To Normal”

It’s mid-April 2020, and most of the world is or should be in quarantine. The main question for most people is: how much longer? Nobody knows yet, but here are the signs I watch that tell me what we’re probably looking at.

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I’m mostly watching three industries: travel/tourism, conferences, and internships. Plus relevant scientists. :)

Many internships are being canceled or postponed.

Sadly, many job offers are being rescinded and internships are vanishing. But one post caught my eye. A woman recently mentioned on LinkedIn that her internship at a famous tech company has been pushed to start in August 2021. That’s not a few months of delay. Someone at that company modeled that that is when their industry will rebound enough that they will want/need interns again.

Travel and tourism are all over the place.

First I was seeing that American Disney parks wanted to open this summer (2020). Then I saw that various levels of California government might not let Disneyland open again until September or later. Given that Florida is cool with you going to church and the beach, they’re not a good example of when things should close or open.

I’m a member of Disney’s timeshare system, which gives you a number of “points” to use each year at a handful of hotels mostly at Walt Disney World Florida. I’m waiting to see what they announce happens to all the points people couldn’t use in 2020, and how long they give you to use these points. They haven’t said anything yet.

I thought cruise lines would heavily discount 2021 cruises. Given the mess cruises were these past few months, you would think that demand has dropped so far they’d have to put cruises on sale… but they haven’t. That tells me they either think 2021 will be normal (so you can pay normal prices) or they might not be sailing next year (so why incentivize you to buy something now that you might not be able to use later). I’m thinking the latter.

I’m also reading that it’s unlikely that sports stadia and fields will host fans for the rest of 2020. Too risky to bring all of those people together, especially when you realize how many people travel from how many locations to watch a sporting event. You could have people from out of town, out of state/province, or from another country.

Conferences

I have seen conferences head in three directions. Some have become live online events. Kudos to them for pivoting fast and letting the show go on. Some delayed to later in the year. The April — June 2020 conferences I was scheduled to speak at are now officially being held September — December 2020 (but who knows if they will happen).

Most telling are the conferences that completely canceled 2020 and said see ya in 2021. Even an October 2020 conference I applied to decided in April 2020 to completely cancel and not reschedule. I had a bunch of confirmed speaking gigs this year completely cancel the event rather than reschedule for later. Some asked if I’m free for their 2021 dates, and they’ll offer their 2020 program next year. Sure! Calendar looks pretty open!

Facebook, a company I don’t like but a company that probably has the most information about the most things on the planet, canceled all of their events through June 2021. It sounds like they imagine maybe things are more “normal” around 63 weeks from now.

I’ve also predicted that conferences will shift from scheduled online or in-person happenings to a steady stream of online content. Why should you wait until August 2021 to hear my talk when a conference could be a YouTube channel (paid or unpaid) delivering relevant, in the moment, presentations and fresh ideas as the conference learns about the speaker or the ideas? Why do we wait until once a year to talk about new trends, best practices, company/product announcements, or more successful techniques? It’s an “I’ll watch it when I feel like” world. You might want to shift towards that.

Relevant expert scientists

The main piece of information I’m watching is: when should we expect a reliable vaccine that can keep most if not all people from getting the virus? Most people are saying at least 18 months (78 weeks) to create a safe vaccine that’s ready for the public. Some scientists and teams already started 1–3 months ago. If you started on your vaccine work 8 weeks ago, there are still roughly 70 weeks to go.

I’m thinking this is where Facebook lands on their “63-ish weeks from now” conference schedule plan, and where that postponed internship landed on their “68-ish weeks from now” plan.

What can I do about any of this?

Not much. So this is my current plan.

  1. Stay as safe as I can, both for my own health and for the health of those who I could possibly pass something to (unknowingly). I have to remember that if I had COVID-19 and didn’t know it, I touched somebody else’s computer, phone, or drinking glass, and they touched it even days later, I could infect them. I could kill them. I can’t take those chances.
  2. I can keep writing articles and doing live streams. I’ve seen some authors/speakers decide to write less and stop streaming or podcasting because engagement and listens are down. Well, sure, people are stressed. At best their lives and schedules are upside-down. I would rather have a YouTube library of content and ideas you can try later — when you’re ready — than to hold off creating content until I think you’re paying more attention to me the moment I’m delivering that content.

I hope you’re doing everything you can to stay safe and healthy. We still know so little about this virus. Nobody can tell if you’re immune after you get it or not. Are there long-lasting health effects. Which organs it can affect. A lot we still don’t know, and we can’t assume that everything goes fantastically for everybody.

Your horror movies didn’t prepare you for this. They all showed people running and running to somewhere. The opposite is needed right now.

Delta CX author | Customer Experience Strategist, Architect, Speaker, Trainer. “The Mary Poppins of CX & UX.” Learn more at DeltaCX.com and Pty.pe.

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