Musings on Online Conferences

For quite a while now there is a corona driven and totally acceptable tendency to cancel on premise conferences and events and with same speed and enthusiasm online conferences are spreading and sprouting all over the place. And although I appreciate quite some information coverage during these infectious times I despise this type of “onlineification” of any kind of conference.

You already perceive cheering as “in presence is dead and online is the future”.

Well, you read that all over the place. Wonderful new formats are the future. Real world conferencing will not return anyway. At least no conference the way as it has been before Corona. I get the feeling that this line of argumentation grows stronger and stronger the longer this pandemic goes. Although, as my heart is with some of the conference organizing agencies, nevertheless there is the question, what actually happens here?

One thing you need to make yourself aware of, is, that in business conferencing there is only one currency. And as you probably bet, that is not hard cash but awareness. Awareness by whom? For what? Since many conferences actually do not cover their cost entirely by entrance fees, they typically live event depends on sponsors and these are typically the marketing departments of any mayor supplier.

For these departments, there is only one hard currency and that is “a lead”, translating into a real sales opportunity, which then could be followed up by intense customer approach through the sales department.

These leads in real events need hard to be earned, because the marketing needs to convince YOU, the visitor to fill out a form or drop a business card. This could be by a amazing presence, good information, exciting talks, however. Anyway the visitor got a first quality check to pay in his (future) currency, which is time that later on is spend in endless sales calls on follow up.

In online events, this lead information is typically given away for free – by registration already. The need of convincing the visitor drops to supplying the same mabushi, that is already available and canned that you probably may find in better quality by a good internet research. So quality assurance on the sponsor side is gone.

Leaves the second Q&A instance, the organizer of the event, which by then has the chance of a larger reach for location independence and somehow time but on the price of higher competition – on both sides: Presenters / speakers and the attendees. So this part is not yet a safe bet.

So typically the attendee gets a schedule and quite condensed information on the event, but has to do upfront research (which in on premise a good idea as well) but has a strong guiding on that too – which removes the valuable part of onsite spontaneous impression and exchange with other users and visitors.

Now that at least applies for me, when I review my last conference attendances. The most and remarkably significant information I got in side talks that never had been explicitly planned but happened by chance or short notice recommendation. This comes to the extent that I adjusted our complete IT infrastructure strategy based on insights after these talks.

So any online event I have seen, does not really compensate that meeting coincidence. No chat or virtual lounge so far has given me a glimpse of replacement for that. And that although I occasionally speak and present in online events and support some of the event organizers by adding some information values. And to my annoyance, even as contributor in some events, I get bothered by sales people on an amazing lead because I had been interested in an topic, for that I spoke an hour about an amazing solution already.

So bottom line, I really hope to be in presence somewhere soon again.

Kyp. F.

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