Virtual Abyss

Virtual events and meetings were difficult to establish for a long time. Now they’ve become an essential part of the New Normal. Here are some observations:

  1. Networking with other attendees is almost impossible. Aside from adding someone to your LinkedIn network, it’s tough to build a professional relationship virtually. The event organizer struggles to develop a ‘host’ persona, let alone justify expenses for events. Hence, most events are free. The featured speaker(s) are unable to connect and answer questions from attendees personally. A ton of LinkedIn connections doesn’t go far if you aren’t able to communicate with folks individually. I generally don’t accept social network invitations from folks I’ve never met in-person. Now, I have no choice. It makes sense that new apps are being launched for invitation-only networks to filter the noise from random attendees.
  2. Post-event community building is non-existent. It’s hard to recreate the ‘community feeling’ you get over drinks at a physical event. I’ve made friends and collaborators just from attending conferences and Meetups. I became a regular attendee, sponsor, and co-organizer of events because I met other organizers and sponsors of events. I felt I was part of a community and did my part to give back by organizing events.
  3. Event venues and company sponsors played a huge role in making events successful. What happens when community spaces disappear? I co-organized an event at WeWork with generous sponsors. We could attribute its success because of the location and hospitality of co-hosts.  The postponement of major events vastly reduces community-building, economic impact, and the discovery of new artists and entrepreneurs. What happens to Austin without SXSW? What about San Francisco without Dreamforce? Will Vegas survive without large conferences?
  4. It’s essential to have an impressive backdrop or, at least, a virtual one. Most of us don’t have professional wallpaper plastered behind us and look trapped in our living spaces. Event organizers and speakers should up their game here. If you have 20K attendees at your event, re-design your personal office to look more professional.

The main goal is surviving Covid-19. Still, I wonder how communities, events, and conferences will survive in a virtual world. I’m struggling with Zoom fatigue. When we start meeting again in-person, the ‘wow factor’ will give way to a world defined by rigidity, safety, and security. I hope event planners and community builders have a voice in building new community spaces. There are incredible opportunities to redesign our physical world once our doctors and politicians figure things out and establish boundaries.