I just read a great post by the great Seth Godin about substitutes. His premise is that it makes no sense for the Times of London or Time Magazine to put their materials behind a paywall because we can readily find a substitute to take their place. Think abcnews.com or cbsnews.com. This makes perfect sense and you can apply it to the world of meetings and events easily.
If you are producing an event that is the same year after year, does not challenge your audience or is, frankly boring, your attendees will find a substitute. They will search out the programs that they need to thrive, survive, live and learn. They want it and they need it.
So, before we blame the economy or a million other reasons why your meeting, conference or event is declining in attendance, perhaps we should look at the substitutes. Where are your attendees going? What are they doing? Attendees still have a desire to learn, to interact and to be involved, this is human nature. It is also human nature to align with the best and if you are not the best anymore, attendees will seek out the highest rung on the ladder.
Perhaps it is time for you to start climbing again.