What are we learning about streaming events? This unique time in human history is creating a new normal, as fewer and fewer of us expect to return to the world as we knew it. Have we learned anything through our quarantine days? One thing we know for sure: a lot of those meetings could indeed have been emails. Forced to re-evaluate which activities demand the physical presence of several people in the same room, we had to acknowledge that, if talking is the main activity to be performed during a meeting, then there is no real reason for that meeting not being a conference call. It’s too early to tell how this knowledge will affect the future of events, conferences, trade shows, and business gatherings, but we can confidently say things will change. And not just because we are now wary of approaching our fellow humans, but also because we are re-evaluating which meetings and events need to be planned and held in person and which can more effectively be conducted remotely.
Art and culture led the way
While we all switched quickly from meetings to conference calls, cultural institutions and artists were the first to experiment with the possibilities of streaming events in this new age of social distancing. Museums started offering virtual tours, opera houses streamed free performances and new frontiers of remote collective interactions were explored. The rest of us followed in their wake and we are now considering virtual trade shows, virtual seminars and workshops, virtual speed meetings, and virtual showcases.
What have we learned about streaming events?
Are streaming events just something we make do with in an emergency, or are they going to be a viable option even after the current crisis? Beside the fact that we don’t know yet when the pandemic will be over, we are starting to notice the perks of remote business meetings and conferences and to appreciate what we stand to gain by taking advantage of all the tools technology put at our disposal. Small and medium businesses, for instance, would be able to cut expenses when taking part in a trade show remotely. Not having to invest in travel and accommodation or multiple tickets for the whole team, would allow those with a smaller budget to maximise their investment and focusing their efforts on product development and sales. Not to mention the positive impact that cutting back on air travel is having on the environment.
Why do we still crave “physical” events?
Couldn’t we have reached these conclusions before now? Why would we insist on spending more money on travel to showcase our products, rather than saving on what may be considered frivolous expenses? The reasons are mostly psychological. We don’t need to travel, we just like to. We want to experience different cultures, different perspectives, different cuisines. It is exciting and liberating to get out of our daily routine while appeasing our workaholic conscience in the knowledge that we are still working. And we don’t need to shake our business partners’ hands to close a deal, to meet them, or to share a meal with them, but we feel safer when we do. For years we have been trained to consider physical interactions as safer and more professional. If a potential business partner had refused to meet us, insisting on a conference call instead, we might have thought them unreliable or unprofessional. And yet, if we are honest, there’s nothing we can do or say in a meeting that can’t be done or said on a conference call. And, now that technology has allowed us to stream high-quality events, fashion shows, sales pitches with interactive interfaces, chat rooms, and product details to be accessed instantly, we can’t help but notice how much richer and more varied our online experience has become.
Is this the end of “traditional” events?
We very much hope not, because those psychological needs are still very real. We crave contact, emotional exchange, shared experiences. Nothing can substitute the pleasure and emotion of sitting around the same table and enjoying the same food and a glass of wine. We still need to bond over real encounters, handshakes, and hugs. But, since that is not possible, we might as well make the best of it. And, when this pandemic is over, we might take a lesson from this crisis and remember that we can also get things done while sitting at home in our corporate suit jacket and pyjama bottoms.