Events and conferences will never be the same. They will go VR.
People are joking that COVID19 did a work of digital transformation instead of CEOs or CDOs. Don't know about digital transformation, but pandemic did put in motion a lot of wheels. Results will be visible in the coming years. Some start to be evident right now.
For the record; I wrote this post on Sunday, May 5'th, 2020 - still during the partial lock-down caused by COVID19 pandemic.
There are many areas of our lives touched by the pandemic and changes inducted by it. Some are visible. Some will become visible in the months or years to come.
The moment it started to be a global outbreak, I started to think about things that will change.
Cinemas, that was the easy one. The shift towards streaming was already happening. Will we get back to the cinema? How many will survive, and will people go there? Why? So far, it was about movies played in the cinema first. Now? It goes streaming right away.
Others emerged during the pandemic as a response. Think 3D printing. People used it to produce medical parts and PPE. Much cheaper in some cases. It turned out to be useful. And cheaper.
It will speed up the trend which was already happening. It isn't only in 3D printing as technology. People start to produce designs of easy to made replacement for the equipment. People will use it to avoid disruption of the supply chain.
Vendors will use patents to stop it. Laws and regulations will prevent it. The previous status quo will not go away without a fight. For sure, some discussions around the ricing of equipment will happen.
A few weeks ago, I started to think about another one.
Meetings and conferences.
What do you like about conferences? People? Travel? The actual content of the sessions? Why are you traveling to conferences?
Not for content, that is for sure. The typical conference spans several tracks. Sessions are shorter and shorter, as a response to a shorter attention span. Remember - not that long ago session time was 75 minutes as a standard. Most of the content is available later as a record (not a lot of people watch it anyway). Chat in person with the speaker after the talk has excellent value, at least for me. Yet, it is easy to reach out to them over the Internet as well. Most of them are open to talk.
In my case, conferences are about people and conversations. I bet it is for most of us. Yet, the cost of time and travel is high. Cost in many dimensions: personal, environment, financial (put it in your order of things). It makes attending conferences less and less appealing. Regardless if it is speaking or visiting it.
At the moment, all such events are stopped. It is a good and needed reboot to re-think how we do it. There were a lot of events organized for the sake of gathering money from sponsors. There was a lot of redundant events. We've created a whole industry of conferences. Did we get a similar size of the value in return from it?
Do we need it? Do we have to travel and burn fuel to spend a day on fast forward, speaking with strangers and listening to talks, which are available later on-line?
Do we need a venue for it? Does it have to be physical? A lot of events are already happening on-line.
Vendors already took a safe side and moved large conferences on-line. Microsoft does a Build 2020 on-line, in two days and for free.
No fuel burnt.
No jet lag.
Companies save money on expenses and tickets.
At the same time, it means no money in the local economy where it was about to happen. Lots of places will have to re-think its accommodation and hotel industry future.
One thing is sure - we will not get back to where it used to be. For sure, there will be a lot of effort to return to "normal." It might be too late; the shift has started.
Conference meets VR
If not physical, where will we go? It is what started my thinking around it. I saw people posting screenshots from the virtual event.
It looked nice. One guy even posted a selfie of his avatar with a speaker.
So far, I was ignoring a VR almost completely. Few checks on possibilities and toying with it. During the pandemic, I started to explore it. Is it a viable option to replace conferences? Is it an option to take part in the meetups or to meet with people in VR other than Teams/Zoom/Whatever calls? Will it make a difference?
In did little research. I've found several services that provide viable solutions at the moment. I've never heard about AlspaceVR before. It already provides a way to conduct events on-line in VR.
I read about Second Life a long time ago. I almost forgot it exists. I saw talks and even bookclub meetings happening there.
Fortnite launched party mode and is hosting concerts there.
People are going to VR. Try to buy Oculus set - you will see it is hard to get. I started to look to get my own. For the first time in years, I'm considering getting a stationary PC for it.
Events and meetings will follow. Of course, there will be plenty of conferences happening in "real life" still. The old industry will try to restart itself.
On-line first and VR will follow. More as reboot than restart.
If I were in creative space, I would start to set up a business around VR avatars. People are people. They will want to look good in VR.
Evolution of events
I did an early draft of this post and then saw Simon's Wardle thread on changes in the value chain, using events as an example (read in full).
Bottom line from it. We will see a restart of the old event industry. The industry restart is driven by investment in venues and building event companies. Smart people (and money) already work on the new state of the world and practices around events. They are after reboot, not restart.
I will use VR in meetings and events this year for sure. I will see how it goes and how it works. It might be too early for the mainstream, but the shift has already started.
The same changes are being triggered at the moment in many other places and industries. It will be interesting to observe the dynamics of changes. For sure, businesses and money will work to undo changes in thinking from the last two months. It will be harder, as adjustments will also happen in months to come.
New companies and practices are emerging to address post-COVID reality and requirements. Those will be
For now, I'm going to shop for some VR gear.
What are your bets or thoughts on technology, industries, and practices?
Where do we see significant change as a result of the COVID19 pandemic this year?
(I put on my TODO list a follow-up to this entry a year from now. )