Virtual Conferences are Dead - Rethinking Community Knowledge Worker Development

Aug 14, 2020

by Patrick Delaney

The Former Function of Mass Events in the “Old World”

Understanding that there is no certainty in terms of if, how or when the pandemic may taper off, in terms of its affects on mass events, I believe it is important to take a step back and look at an abstract view on the function of conferences and events in society. When approaching an important engineering or design problem, one of the first questions we should ask is, “How does this serve humans?”

The initial knee jerk reaction of many conference organizers around the world, including myself, was to create a solution and “go virtual.” Many of my sponsors and attendees were excited about this, and believed in the idea of building something new together, making lemondate in the face of about a million tons of lemons - for which I am greatful. I went back to my attendees and offered refunds, or the capability to convert their ticket prices into cheaper, “Digital Subscriptions,” at $19.95 as opposed to hundreds of dollars. I was surprised to find that many attendees simply decided to just donate their formally physical ticket revenue toward the cause. Things were going great, and I’m not afraid to say that I take a lot of pride in being able to convert a completely physical event into a completely virtual, software-based event within an about a month timeframe, using my own software, much of which I wrote myself. Personally, I happened to have created some simple software over the past three years which was utilized in sharing post-conference video material. I was able to leverage that and run a, “Virtual Conference,” version of my annual largest conference, IoTFuse. Attendeance was down about 50%, and some of the survey information showed me afterward that attendees felt a bit…shall we say…underwhelmed. While I did recieve many comments noting that the experience was exciting, inspiring and, “better than [they] expected it would have been,” - the overwhelming majority of the sentiment was that it was, “just not the same.”

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