Yesterday I read a really interesting blog post written by Dennis Shiao. In his article, entitled “A Virtual Blog Posting” Dennis raises the question of whether the term “virtual” is really the best way to describe what is really a “digital” event.
According to Wikipedia, the term “virtual” implies “that which is not real” or is used to mean almost, particularly when used in the adverbial form e.g. “That’s virtually [almost] impossible.”
Based upon those definitions I really believe Dennis is on to something. In my world, I have actually avoided using the word “virtual” for some time when referring to digital, or online event experiences, as the term leaves me cold.
Conference Participants: Who Are We Anyways?
Ask yourself this question; if you are attending a conference remotely do you appreciate being referred to as a virtual (almost real) attendee or a remote (online) participant? The term “live attendee,” when referring to a face2face participant, also bothers me. Where does that leave their remote counterparts? (“dead” attendees??) As an event organizer it is my hope that all participants at my events are “live.”
These days, it is more difficult to differentiate between who is online, and who is face2face at conferences. For example, in a Twitter back-channel conversation, which is becoming commonplace at conferences, it is literally impossible to discern the difference.
Remote participants are oftentimes contributing as much (or even more) to the conversations occurring at conferences, as their face2face colleagues. Of course face2face attendees have an edge at cocktail parties and other “on-premise only” networking events.
Meeting Attendees: It’s About My Experience, Not My Location!
As the inclusion of digital attendees continues to gain broader acceptance in the face2face meetings arena, the lines distinguishing between face2face and remote participants will fade. I firmly believe Event organizers will no longer care, other than planning for logistics, on whether an attendee is physically located at the event, or attending through online digital channels.
The most important focus, for planners, will be on creating memorable conference experiences fostering quality conversations, collaborative learning experiences, and productive brainstorming sessions. Technology will be the bridge to ensure this happens seamlessly, amongst all attendees, whether they are participating remotely, or face2face.
Most of us agree the ideal way to connect with other people is still via traditional face2face encounters. Reality is face2face participation at an event is not always a viable option for all prospective attendees. With the growth and improvement of technology it is now feasible to have a value-rich conference experience as a remote or “digital” attendee. A whole lot of learning and business is getting done that way!
Question: How do you see the future of events evolving? What are your thoughts on how online and face2face channels will continue to blend together? Please your comments.