From social distancing to physical distance

I know what you are thinking: “Oh no, not another article about the Corona virus and its implications!”, but I have to disappoint you, because that is exactly what this article is about. Because the implications are huge and will make a ginormous impact on our industry, so I believe that it is important that we join forces, exchange knowledge and generally just keep up the spirit, which I hope to do with this blog post.

Yet another ‘new normal’

When this Corona situation is over (as much as it can be ‘over’), we will be looking at yet another ‘new normal’, which seems to be the phrase we use every time something like this happens and we have to change our ways. But what will this ‘new normal’ look like? None of us really know, but I will let you in on what I think.

On the other side of this we will see a different road map of events, so to speak. I believe that #eventprofs all over the World – as well as every other employee – will have embraced virtual options for all kinds of meetings, and that this new paradigm will not go away. We will all be more confident with meeting online, the technology will not be scary anymore and we will have a better understanding of online behavior (dos, don’ts, ethics etc.).

And we can either sit back, feel demotivated, sad and stressed out, or we can stand up, team up, take the bull by the horns and start embracing the new online paradigm.

As my good friend and fellow event connoisseur, Victoria Matey states: “You have to frame it in a positive way, when you communicate the transition from live to virtual events” (quote adapted from Victoria’s article “Live vs Virtual event amongst coronavirus outbreak: how framing can help us with this dilemma”).

There is no ‘on the other side’

Actually, we are already on the ‘other side’, because many event professionals have already converted offline meetings to online during the short period of time when we have been stuck in this crisis situation. And we have to keep up the good work, when we are again allowed to meet face to face, since the online formats will not disappear at that time (as I mentioned above).

If you are thinking of pivoting your offline event and making in an online, there are some things that you need to be aware of, which you can read about in this great article from Endless Events: How to Turn Your In-Person Event into a Virtual Event.

Further to the topics mentioned in the article, you also have to be aware of the human aspects of an online meeting – the mechanisms of our interaction are different online than offline. Think introverts vs. extroverts and how the former might either completely disappear in the event or on the other hand be more ‘visible’ (no pun intended J) since there are different dynamics in an online event. A fantastic online event needs a great moderator who can handle this online moderation as well as not being daunted by technology. But it is not impossible to find such a person … they are out there!

Is the face to face meeting dead??

NO! It can be said as short and sweet as this, but I will say it again: THE FACE TO FACE MEETING IS NOT DEAD!

However (yup, here it goes), in the future we will have to make sure that our offline meeting is worth the while when it comes to resources, spending, sustainability, risk of diseases etc. This means no more:

  • random “But we always gather in June” or “We have got to have such a meeting too” meetings
  • flying in speakers from the other side of the globe to give a 1-hour presentation (this one we have seen coming for a while when talking sustainability)
  • events where dishing out information is the focal point (send out an E-mail, newsletter, memo)

So, no the face to face meeting is not dead, but it should be designed to focus on what is not possible (or at least what is less beneficial in an online meeting).

  • Networking is essential for most meetings and events, but it does not work as well online. It is much easier connecting with other people when you meet them in person
  • Negotiating a contract can be tricky if you cannot see the other person. It can be a balancing act to know when to hold’em and when to fold’em if you don’t know the person from more than a computer screen
  • Incorporating the senses (which help us remember) is an essential part of creating an experience, and so far, I haven’t heard of anyone developing a VR experience that takes all five senses into consideration (or any other way to do this online)
  • And engaging your participants is probably the most crucial part of creating an experience! Sharing knowledge, being creative and generally being part of a group while being active (whether physical or mental) is what makes an experience an experience! We cannot miss this element, but it is still not the same being engaged online.
How to create a strategy for your face to face events

If you are now wondering how to make sure that your face to face events are worth it, you don’t have to worry … I am here to help you!

First of all, I will say that you have to create a strategy for your events. Make sure that this strategy supports the overall corporate strategy, and that the main element of the event strategy is to have fewer (face to face) events. However, the events that you do choose to have should be valuable for your participants – this will rub off on you and create value for your company as well. Use this opportunity and the freed resources to create even better events – events that are important to have face to face.

Second, I will advise you to make these events an experience for your participants. Strategic experience design is not a fad. It is a design method to build valuable events that participants will immerse in and leave with a change of behavior. And it is this behavior change that will help us reach our objective with the event!

Yes, we will see fewer face to face meetings, so make sure you are amongst those who offer these … but also do make sure that it is worth the while for both the participants and yourselves.

And yes, we have to practice distance to each other to make this devastating situation better, but let us make this distance physical not social! Because we are #strongertogether.