Updated: Mar 19, 2021
I don’t know about you, but if the future of events is virtual than my future won’t be in events. A bold statement I know, but when I think of all the things I love about events virtual events just don’t check any of those boxes. However, I truly believe that outside a global pandemic it’s not an either/or situation. Many have also been threatening or promising (depending on how you feel about it) that hybrid is the way to the future. Which leads me to wonder is virtual our future event reality?
There is very clearly a need for virtual events in the current climate, but I just don’t buy that virtual is the way of the future. We have all had to pivot and create new normals, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable (or not as mentioned in the first blog post), but that was out of a need to survive in extenuating circumstances… not out of demand from our audiences.
Virtual and hybrid events are not a new concept…they’re just never anyone’s first choice. The event world has long questioned and wondered should they allow some aspect of their live event to be experienced virtually. However, a decision of how much, for how much, and what is too much has never effectively been answered. Outside of a global pandemic those questions don’t go away. When it comes to virtual events people are largely uninterested. I won’t even tell you some of the things that were said to us by attendees as we pivoted to virtual for May events, and that’s when it was ILLEGAL to hold in person interviews. Do we really think after what is most likely going to be 12-24 months of no large in person events people are going to willingly continue to experience our events virtually? NO MA’AM!
As in any and every crisis there are valuable lessons to be learned, and where there are lessons there is opportunity. While most events have suffered financially with less attendees and sponsors in a virtual environment, there have been some that have flourished. We have learned that not EVERY meeting needs to be in person. We've learned exactly how manual our co-workers jobs were as the few left standing took over for their teams. Perhaps some of us have found a new business model or subset of an event that will and should always be provided virtually. We have learned that Zoom bombing is a thing, and that some people need to be MUCH.MORE.CAREFUL. with their activities while on said video calls. Most importantly we have learned how important in person events are to our businesses, our lives, and our economy. The magic of connection and networking that happens in person will NEVER be duplicated virtually.
From what I’ve seen, and heard from colleagues, friends and the industry at large… the idea that virtual is the way of the event future is a virtual unreality. As Stephen Fry said “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.”, so then why should in person events fear virtual events?