In the Times: This Year’s Take on Virtual Events. Comdex in the Ether.
Once or twice a year, one of the big media wags does a think piece on Virtual Events and this week it was the New York Times. Technology articles like this should include an index of previous articles on the same subject, like this one from 2007 I found in the Washington Post. Then we could have the fun of going back to read all the predictions that don’t pan out.
The Times article avoids the kind of hyperbole that we used to see back in the day, and the author was smart to speak with Michael Doyle at the Virtual Edge Institute, who wisely explains that virtual events need to be part of an ongoing (perpetual) social experience. The IBM example in the article is interesting, but these vendor-driven attempts at creating community often miss the mark. The drive is on now to build effective B2B communities and then produce events that bring those communities together. B2B media should be leading these efforts, but good examples are rare.
This article only briefly mentions hybrid events, but doesn’t cite any good existing models, as I suspect there aren’t any. As a B2B event producer, I’ve cast my lot with the hybrid model, which we’re currently building on top of a performance-based video archive platform. We’re using video and webcasting content to develop a sense of community among like-minded professionals and we plan to host regular “connected events” that enable face-to-face and teleconferenced interaction within that community.
Virtual events will always be with us. I’ve produced, and will continue to produce virtual events and webcasts. The economics of the model are simple, they’re easy to do, and they fill an important need. But at the level of human experience, virtual events are airless and isolating.
In the center of this Times article, I was surprised to see a mention of “Comdex Virtual,” which somehow escaped my notice last month. Real Comdex (1979-2003) used to consume the entire business media community annually and the people who attended have long-lasting, viceral memories of that massive industry gathering in Las Vegas. I haven’t been able to find anyone who “attended” Comdex Virtual, but I assume thousands signed in, signed out and went on with their lives.