Although we all realise by now that online events will not disappear, we still go online with reluctance. We hear from our clients 'that people don't feel like going online anymore', so meetings are postponed or even cancelled.
Partly of course, this is because online events are not always very well designed and executed. But what doesn't help either is that the virtual version of meetings is almost consistently framed as the bad alternative.
Almost every online meeting is opened with the statement 'we would of course have preferred to meet live', speakers constantly underline how unfortunate it is that they have to stand in front of a camera and in the end the hope is expressed 'that we can meet again in real life next year'.
As a result, we fail to fully exploit the power of online. We prefer to postpone events to next year, instead of designing them (fully and properly) for online. We call the online alternative Plan B, which you only switch to if you really, really, really have no other choice. That way, no one will ever want to go online!
We advocate viewing (and naming) online as a full, equal option in the meeting mix. Only then can we be fully flexible, based on purpose, need and circumstances.
Only when we ourselves start to believe in online, participants and clients will follow. Only then will the many advantages of online be seen. Because advantages are certainly there!
Meeting online is often much quicker than meeting live, especially internationally. You can respond much more flexible to developments and plan an event much more spontaneously.
Of course, some online events are even more expensive than physical ones. But in many cases, you can organise a meeting very inexpensively and yet effectively in Zoom, Teams, from a simple studio setting, etc.
After all, you save on location and catering, while the quality does not have to be less.
You can often do more online in less time. And with at least as great an effect as live (the evidence is there!).
For many participants and other people involved, online is simply convenient. You can often combine it better with other important matters and if there are recordings, you can watch them when it suits you.
Meeting online means less travel, less catering and so on. Even if you include the increased energy consumption of the data stream, online is more sustainable in many aspects.
This is one of the trickiest points: online is seen as boring and lacking in energy. In the past years, we have proven the opposite.
For example, our workshops are just as much fun online as they are live. And with the right tools and work formats, there is a lot of energy and interaction. Feel free to contact us for tips and suggestions.
Everyone can be there, if there is no need to travel. Speakers who were unavailable, can suddenly attend. Participants who did not get it planned, can suddenly (partly) take part. And the introverts can feel safe enough to really participate.
You can make the right programme accessible for everyone, because there is more choice. You can programme a number of shorter sessions, instead of a whole day. Participants can attend parts of the programme.
In theory, everything can be done online. Inform, decision making, collaboration, inspiration, networking, party, etc. We have done it all and with success.
What is online, is basically there for ever to watch and re-watch. And online it is much easier to plan follow-up sessions, so events become less autonomous.
So much can be done online, as long as you embrace the medium. At the very beginning of the pandemic, I attended an online performance by Dutch theatre-maker Micha Wertheim. He had managed to let go of live and see online as a whole new opportunity. The performance was brilliant and my wife and I sat on the couch with a real theatre-feeling. Micha made me realise that online is more than just a poor excuse for live.
Participants, clients and the event industry: they all complain about online. Let's stop that and let's celebrate online as a beautiful new medium; as an enrichment of our possibilities and a great new option in our toolbox.
Only when we name and prove the power of online, the medium will get the recognition it deserves.
Jan-Jaap In der Maur