Hitting the Virtual Road
Last week we had our first experience of a Virtual Event. It's a safe bet that it won't be our last.
Orchid have been regular attendees at Sage events around the world for 20 years or more, but 2020 and COVID-19 changed everything.
Not only did the closure of Australia’s borders in March make international travel impossible for us – the global event calendar itself came to a grinding halt. As the year has progressed, early optimism about a quick return to business as usual has faded.
It is now generally accepted that the days of carefree globetrotting won't be coming back any time soon.
The first half of 2020 saw an explosion in remote working, with demand for tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom going through the roof. We are now starting to see a similar revolution in event management, as organizers confront the reality that rolling postponements aren’t the answer.
Welcome to the brave new world of Virtual Events
Last week we participated in 3 days of events, as Sage Asia and Sage Australia held their FY21 Partner Kick-offs, as well as Sage Summit Asia. This would have been a new experience for many of the organizers, participants, and attendees. It certainly was for us.
Sage’s local event management partner used the Hopin virtual event platform. Orchid supported the events as a sponsor, and we participated through our ‘virtual booth’. Attendees could pre-book a timeslot for a one-on-one meeting, or just drop in to the booth for a chat.
We were impressed.
Overall, we’d have to say the experience exceeded our expectations.
Of course, we missed the face to face contact and the chance to socialize outside of event hours, but this was offset by a number of positives, e.g.:
- The ability to have 2-way video chats with multiple attendees was much more interactive and personal than a webinar or text chat.
- With the barrier of interstate or international travel removed, the events became accessible to many more ‘out of town’ participants.
As an example, the Australasian awards ceremony allowed award winners who might not have been able to attend a traditional event to ‘step up on stage’ to accept their awards.
Is this what the future looks like?
Who knows, but it will certainly form part of it. Despite promising developments on the vaccine front, it’s hard to imagine global travel returning to anything like normal before 2022 at the very earliest. When things do start to open up, we can expect to see restricted routes, fewer flights, and higher fares.
In the meantime, virtual events will become more common, and the technology will get better and better. Just as many office workers will be reluctant to return to long commutes, many businesses are likely to take a fresh look at the cost-benefit equation of attending events – particularly where long-haul travel is involved.
The Virtual Event is here to stay. Of that, I’m virtually certain.