The challenging time we are in has led to many creative approaches to continue operations in some manner. In the information technology industry, the work-from-home concept has been taken to a new level, straining network connections in some locales. Online meetings and presentations are the norm right now. This has even progressed to large conferences being delivered as ‘virtual events.’
Virtual conferences and marketing launches as virtual events for vendors does address the immediate need. But how effective is it and will there be a sea change going forward? In the short term, with the majority of the technical community working from home, there is a ready audience to listen to the information being broadcast.
The concern is that virtual events may become the normal method to reach people. This is more than just addressing the current work-from-home mandate. The marketing professionals in vendor companies will develop expertise in how to build and deliver virtual events. Importantly, the financial savings will be seen as a significant contribution. This may result in ongoing budget changes. It may even lead to virtual events as a critical part of the strategic plan for a company.
A caution is remembering the value of face-to-face meetings and events. There is just no replacement for the personal connection created when meeting with someone. The ‘look them in the eye’ aphorism to understand someone, tell if they are being honest, and gauge their enthusiasm is absolutely true. Virtual events do not have that quality. More appropriate to consider, as the topic for understanding the value of face-to-face, is the opportunity for interaction between individuals. Body language tells us a great deal even if we do not consciously consider it. The communication interaction provides a deeper understanding assuming the individuals can communicate. The fact that some have difficulty communicating is a given. Finally, the association that is built between the person and an idea/product/solution is gold. This is where understanding turns into advocacy and potential for sales.
In the future, when the required work-from-home situation is no longer in force, there may be some lingering effects on how we interact. How long this lasts may actually be driven by companies and their expertise in virtual events and economic savings more than health requirements. But there will be a point where the value of face-to-face meetings will again be recognized. Companies need to plan for this in their staffing and their budgets. It may require some business justifications as to the value delivered versus a virtual event. That could be a difficult justification but it may be one that is competitive. If another company is doing it and achieves some success, the question of ‘why aren’t we’ will be asked.
In summary, do not underestimate the value of face-to-face meetings and events. Companies should look to the future where we can discuss, communicate, inform, convince, etc. All those things are what is needed to move forward.