Recently, we attended an event promoting virtual conferences and the technology surrounding virtual events. (Interestingly enough, we attended this event live and in-person instead of virtually. Hmm...)
The buzz in the event industry is, of course, that companies are either supplementing in-person events with some virtual meetings, or are replacing in-person events all together. At the very least, a lot of companies are exploring the virtual space and seeing how they can use it to cut costs or just to stay on the cutting edge of technology.
The event was incredibly educational and opened our minds to a lot of possibilities within virtual events; virtual interactions and networking, streaming media on-demand, even virtual spaces that were set up to look like "real" life.
Then, as we wandered from vendor spaces to streaming cafes to educational presentations, our senses were overwhelmed. There was...a scent. A delicious scent... Our mouths watered... Wait, it was.... Freshly-popped popcorn!
Where was it coming from?
We quickly sought out the source of enticement. One of the workshop providers had rented a popcorn machine and was handing out free snacks. As we took our tantalizing bags of buttery goodness, we wandered around their space, looking at their information and sitting down to watch their pitch. It was a great way to enhance our experience and draw us into their show.
But what is the virtual equivalent of popcorn?
The fact that it was a scent and food wasn't important. The point is this: a lot of elements go into an event. Some of these can be replicated in the virtual space, certainly; the PowerPoints/handouts, the speeches, even a bit of the networking.
Some of them are irreplaceable. Would you rather submit questions through a chat forum, or have the opportunity to network with your CEO/VP/Etc. firsthand? Would you rather video-conference about a new product, or get the chance to see it and touch it? Is a picture worth a thousand handshakes?
While we dive headlong into the world of virtual events, it's important to remember how valuable face-to-face contact and face-to-face events really can be. While the virtual world may save a bit (or a lot) of money, there's still a need for in-person events.