Opinion: The future is to gather, together

While virtual events have been invaluable, one event prof believes live events will back stronger, and more inclusive, than ever.

Written by Antony Hampel, founder and director of Alive Events

They say the world is changing, moving toward a virtual future. Certainly, the recent advancements in technology have allowed us to maintain long-distance relationships and connect remotely with workmates during a time where this would otherwise have been impossible. But does that mean that this is the end of live events?

Absolutely not. Regardless of what happens in the coming years, virtual events are not a replacement for live events. Whilst a virtual aspect holds a place at events, it cannot replace the value of face-to-face human interaction.

Humans thrive on personal connections with one another. There is an innate desire to interact and connect. When we have a personal conversation, we satisfy that need for emotional connection, which is vital. Would you go on a virtual honeymoon with your partner? I’d think not.

Live events provide opportunities to connect. People dedicate their time and attention to live events. How many times have you sat down for an online meeting, feeling entirely engaged and focussed on the presentation? Trying to engage whilst in the same place, with the same scenery can make for a lacklustre encounter.

Being surrounded with other engaged and motivated individuals makes a difference. Travelling to be in a place other than your office, learn new information, physically sense products and be able to ask questions in person is all part of the live experience.

But sometimes, there are barriers. The virtual event element is invaluable in ensuring that everyone can access content. Live streaming is now an option that gives people the flexibility to still have high quality interactions if they are unable to attend a live event.

However, that doesn’t mean that we should give up on live events just because we can now ‘attend’ an event from the comfort of our couch. With our lives recently having been thrust into virtuality, most of our interactions are now occurring through screens. Whilst it’s given us a sense of togetherness and helped us all to connect, the experience is beginning to take its toll on people.

The experts are calling it ‘Zoom Fatigue’: a phenomenon where the brain, overwhelmed by constant stimuli conks out, leaving the person extremely tired and unable to focus. This happens when the sustained and intense attention that is required for on-screen meetings becomes too much for the brain to handle.

So, is the future virtual? Virtual events will replace live events when virtual honeymoons replace real life honeymoons! I predict that in the next couple of years, it’s likely we will see more smaller-scale events take place. Businesses still need to have a physical presence and the opportunity to engage personally with their audience, so we need to explore the options. Looking forward, the answer will be to combine live events with streaming, so that they become all-inclusive hybrid experiences for everyone.

Antony Hampel is the founder and director of Alive Events, an events and activation agency committed to delivering extraordinary live and virtual events for local and global clients.

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