Good to have met with you – or did I?

A little under 50 years ago video telephony as we know it today, came of age. Since then, broadband telecoms services, alongside powerful computer processing and video compression techniques, have made video conferencing an important communications tool for all kinds of businesses.

Fast forward to1989 and the work of British-born Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. His work marked the beginning of the modern Internet, that today, allows near-instant communication by electronic mail, instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls, two-way interactive video calls and the global reach of the world wide web, to anyone with internet access and computer or mobile device.

Not so long ago, I was informed by a visionary in the event management business, that the world as we know it, was on the cusp of change. He based this assumption on the fact that, with emerging and converging technologies, we would no longer need to meet physically at say conferences or seminars as such activities would be undertaken in the virtual world. He concluded (probably correctly), that many businesses would relish the considerable savings from staff absenteeism, travel, accommodation and subsistence costs, whilst away attending events.

According to a discussion from a Business Week debate some years ago, both sides in this discussion (let’s call them the ‘physical’ versus ‘virtual’ camps), held strong views. A major provider of virtual events suggesting “Why do we have meetings and events? 1) to exchange information; and 2) to network. Virtual meeting and event technology can facilitate these two objectives easily”. And a major event hosting provider viewpoint – “Asking if virtual meetings will replace live meetings is like asking if singles’ chat rooms will replace real dating. Human face-to-face interaction is, and will continue to be, the most effective form of communication. It’s simple. Live meetings deliver the rich, potent experiences that virtual meetings can’t. They deliver motivation along with messaging, and inspiration with information”….

Brussels hosts +/- 60,000 events annually. Events that perform best, maximize digital and social media tools alongside conventional marketing, to deliver key messages to target audiences, before, during and post event.

Here are three valuable lessons for anyone planning to host events:

  1. Ignore technology at your peril – it is here to stay and shall grow in importance, whether used in the physical or virtual event models. Events incorporating video, social media and streaming, grow audience reach, engagement and awareness, tapping into a virtual audience;
  2. Present research confirms audiences want to feel engaged, but often shy away from a microphone intervention in a room full of peers. So, empower intervention from attendees with real-time technology, such as interactive voting or social networking tools, such as Twitter;
  3. And finally, by all means embrace the many benefits of hosting virtual events in your organization, but never forget that human face-to-face interaction at events is a major part of our working DNA, as much as is spending time with friends and loved ones. The physical interactivity behind events is here to stay – accountants be warned!

Enza Fragapane

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