Event management is tough… really tough. In fact, if you are an experienced event planner, you are probably one of the only people in the world that knows how to ship an elephant from Dallas to Alaska, negotiate with three vendors at the same time, or find 200,000 Lego bricks to replace the shipment that disappeared somewhere between Seattle and San Francisco last Thursday. As my time has shifted more and more to virtual and hybrid events, I have slowly realized just how much I appreciate this new medium for building relationships, training employees, and generating leads. While it is true that in-person events are here to stay, I also thought that it would be fun to fantasize about some of the things that I would not miss if physical events were to go the way of the dodo. Here are a few of my own in-person event peeves and reasons that I LOVE virtual events.
1. Balloons, baubles and bubble gum…a.k.a. SWAG.
I will not miss shipping the booth supplies – ordering and packing 3000 business cards, 5000 brochures, 2,000 Frisbees, two boxes of non-melting Hershey’s kisses and four custom built and exquisitely delicate glass awards. Not to mention scissors, tape, push pins, duct tape, pens, batteries, cables, and chargers). There really is a sense of dread as you stick those “fragile” stickers on the boxes, knowing that they may as well be written in Greek (or Arabic if you are actually in Greece). Fortunately, at our virtual events, we can now use game-dynamics to offer a range of prizes that really drive behavior… not just a wild dash for the t-shirt grab.
2. Finding the brochures in a haystack
I will not miss the obligatory trip to the storage area to swim through a sea of boxes in search of the one containing the T-shirts that need to be on the show floor in 30 minutes. Inevitably they will be strategically hidden under a pile of boxes so deep that it makes the great pyramid look like a piece of Toblerone chocolate. Incidentally, there is no reason that you can’t give our T-shirts at a virtual event. And, thanks to post-event printing, you can avoid being stuck with a box of XXXL black t-shirts in your office for the next month.
3. The need to get permission
It’s a fact of life that nothing will turn someone from a reasonable and friendly person into a control-freak faster than giving him a stick and a uniform. Need to move your ladder? Not in this lifetime. Want to hang a new sign that wasn’t on the original plan? Better fill out those forms in triplicate, send them back to Chicago for processing, and pay person A to watch person B holding the ladder for person C to hang the sign for the next hour (at $300 per hour).
4. Selling my soul to the devil in the details
I will not miss the panic in the vendor’s eyes when you ask him to correct the spelling on the sign hanging above your booth that now says “Develop Your Compuper Skills!” Don’t believe him for a second if he says that it isn’t his fault because the “T” on the printer wasn’t working last week. Many virtual event platforms allow you to make on-the-fly changes to your virtual event, often for little or no cost.
5. Finding new clothes for the emperor
I will not miss having difficult conversations with corporate executives who are preparing their keynotes. For the record, a canary-yellow t-shirt with a blue tie is never appropriate for a keynote – even if you work in Silicon Valley. Fortunately, at an online tradeshow, we have the opportunity to work with our customers weeks (and sometimes months) before the event goes live to make sure that every detail is perfect and that everyone on the team has a single vision regarding the presentation.
6. Take down – the big let down
I will not miss trying to find the cardboard boxes needed to ship 2500 business cards, 4900 brochures, and 2995 freebees back home. Have you ever noticed that no matter how many items you give away at an event, you always seem to have enough equipment left to supply a small army for several months? Our virtual event platform has a virtual briefcase that allows users to store all of their event materials for future use – no fuss, no mess, no post-event rush to give each of your friends a company branded T-shirt.
7. Moving the masses… literally
I will not miss the intensely exhausting job of shepherding people back and forth between the food stand, café, bar, and keynotes. Nowadays, many attendees are so desensitized to warning bells that I sometimes think that arming the ushers with Tasers would be the only way to restore order. At an online tradeshow, attendees can flow organically from one activity to the next. And, if they miss a piece of content, they can always watch it in the on demand session.
8. The boots were (not) made for walking
I will not miss the walking – especially through the endless tunnels that connect the meeting rooms in the average convention center. On the other hand, I guess the up-side of all this walking is that I have a good chance to work off the pounds that I would otherwise gain by eating too many brownies and mini-sandwiches. Virtual events offer a super-efficient format that optimizes for mental training, not running a marathon.
9. Attack of the killer cheesecake
As I previously hinted, I will not miss the calories. Over the years, event planners have become experts at maximizing the ROI of every part of an event. While the food at conferences has certainly improved over the years, I sometimes get the impression that the average attendee’s waistline is not counted in the standard definition of “ROI”. Virtual event attendees may have to order their own food, but, at least they can spend their valuable time networking and focusing on the content rather than choosing which line to the buffet will get them to the silver-trays fastest.
10. Seat 7D
I will not miss the flights from A to B through C with a stop-over in D. There is honestly no justice in the world when a trip home from Los Angeles to Boston involves a plane change in Indianapolis and a stop-over in San Diego. Since I started getting actively involved in the virtual events space, I travel half as much and attend twice as many conferences (online of course).
Trading in-person events for in-person time
It is certainly true that my recollections of in-person business events fall into the “good old days” category – a landscape filled with relationships, smiles, and wonderfully embarrassing memories. But, as I look to the future, the world of technology and online events provides engaging and educational experiences that free me to enjoy the simple pleasures of my friends, my family, and my business. In other words, I am trading in-person events for in-person time.
(Article reprinted with permission from Virtual Events Hub.)