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Our Escape From Virtual to Live

Just because you CAN do something, does not mean you SHOULD do it.

Virtual events have been a great alternative to live events, in that they still allow us to deliver content, communicate messaging, unite customers and employees, and remain relevant in the marketplace. Given our current situation, this was a necessary pivot (I know, we’re all sick of that word), and we’ve all come to accept this as the new, albeit temporary, reality.

Early on in the pandemic, the event industry, not unlike other industries, went through stages of grief, ultimately reinventing itself, with success, in a virtual world.

Denial – “This will be over shortly, and we can get back to work.”

Anger – “Stupid pandemic is killing my business! I’ll never survive.”

Bargaining – “We’ll be back to normal events by spring….no, fall…, next fall…, next spring!”

Depression – “There’s no end in sight. I guess the business is dead. This sucks.”

Acceptance – “Well, we’re in this for the long haul. So is everyone else. We better find a new way to get to work!”

There was this magical awakening, seemingly encompassing all businesses and industries simultaneously. An acceptance of this temporary new reality, instead of constant prognostication of when we’d get out of it. It was at that moment that event planners, producers, and their clients alike, woke from hibernation, accepted our new landscape, and hit the ground running. Virtual events exploded as companies realised they’ve waited long enough to resume getting their corporate messaging out there in a robust manner. So we settled in, and got to work. The quiet chatter of “getting back to live” never stopped, however, and still remains the carrot we’re all chasing. When can we get back to live events? Live prisoners, we’ve been rattling our cell bars, just waiting for the moment the warden turns the key and sets us all free. We’ll flood airports, convention centers and hotels, just like the old days. But let’s slow down just for a second.

What’s the point of live events? Why did they ever exist when virtual was an option? Why can’t virtual just become the new normal, and we all shift our focus? We all know the answer. As humans, we’re social creatures – meant to be together. We need to see each other in person – not on a laptop screen. We need to speak in person. We need to shake hands. We need to hug. We need to laugh, eat and drink together. We need to be close. As humans we NEED these things, and we will get there again. All these necessary social connections can never be replicated in a virtual world, no matter how hard we try. This is why we had live events, and this is why we need to get back. In any event, social engagement is like adding accelerant to the fire. We can pretend that people attend a conference at a Miami hotel for the thrilling content, but in reality, it’s just as much (if not more) about the human interaction, the laughing, the hugging, the hand shaking, the meals, the sights and smells, and all the other goodness that comes from being live and in person.

Imagine removing all of that from a live event. Imagine a ballroom filled with 50 people, wearing masks, spaced six feet apart from each other. Imagine an event where attendees can’t sit at the bar together, or shake hands, or lineup at a buffet together, or even ride an elevator together. The masks, distance, sanitizing, spacing, and all other restrictions that will definitely be in place at least at first, will cancel out all that makes a live event special. Imagine being released from prison, and being told you can’t go home, or to a restaurant, or that you can’t see or hug your family. Might be better of in prison for a little while longer.

Make no mistake, live events will be back. It’s in our nature. It’s who we are. There will come a time – perhaps soon – when we will be told it’s ok to travel without worries of testing and quarantine, and when hotels will welcome us back. But maybe we want to pump the brakes on our scheduled prison escape, until we have a good reason for it. No sense busting out, if we can’t hug our family again. That would just be depressing.


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