The virtualisation of events and what to do about it
Events are a huge part of business and indeed, life.
Since the unwelcome arrival of COVID-19, business meetings, conferences, sports and even social gatherings have gone online, transforming the way people live. The virtualisation of physical events has been an important trend for some time, but the pandemic has accelerated adoption. Video calling has stepped into the breach, with profound implications for events going forward.
Video calling has been around for a long time, but investment is now pouring into the sector as incumbents like Zoom, Skype and Google ramp up their offerings and challengers strive to bring new products to market. It’s fair to say that in the years ahead, online experiences will become more intuitive, holistic and immersive.
More significantly, people have been forced to embrace new ways of doing things. Most people are now comfortable doing business online, and rather than being seen as a backward step, the virtualisation of work has been received as a huge upgrade to the status quo, reducing time and friction, making companies and individuals more efficient.
Video calling and cloud based collaboration are enabling businesses and their people to save huge amounts of time and money by limiting face-to-face interactions to what is essential.
It’s not just meetings. Entire workforces are working from home and in time, this new approach to collaboration will feed into bottom lines as companies ditch expensive office rents in favour of flexible co-working or even remote working full time. This is also a big win for corporate sustainability initiatives.
For their part, employees are happy because they are saving time and money that would have been wasted on commuting.
Reinventing the conference
This pandemic won't last forever, but the changes it has ushered in are structural. Business people the world over have become comfortable with conducting meetings online and adoption has now reached critical mass. Physically events won’t disappear entirely, but they will become increasingly rare in a virtualised world where companies and their employees recognise the incredible benefits of doing things online.
This is especially true of conferences. The virtual conference used to be seen as a gimmick, the preserve of hardcore tech businesses that prodded themselves on doing differently. Now they are the norm.
Conference organisers the world over have been forced to adapt in order to provide value to business customers who are unable to travel to far-flung destinations. Customers’ needs haven't changed – they still want to connect with prospects, learn from thought leaders and build a personal brand through high density networking. Thankfully, all of this is possible using the right cloud-based software. It’s just that conference organisers have enhanced their offerings to bring a more compelling and affordable offering.
Supporting critical sectors
Video calling has stepped in to provide continuity for other sectors that are critical to the functioning of society, including finance, healthcare and education. Indeed, we’ve written extensively about how the higher education sector is embracing new technologies in order to secure access to education and pastoral care for its students.
Not only is video calling cheaper and more environmentally sustainable than face-to-face interviews, tuition and pastoral care, it’s also more scalable, enabling educators to reach greater numbers of students. Scheduling 1-2-1 video meetings for the milkround circuit and clearing is set to become a key part of the student recruitment process, improving upon the previous face-to-face approach by making interviews cheaper and easier for candidates to attend. Video communication offers higher education providers a chance to respond to new demands and carve out a role in a post-COVID world defined by compelling, cost-effective digital experiences.
Another area that’s experienced huge change is corporate access. The logistics of corporate access have not changed much in 30 years, but the pandemic has driven investor meetings, roadshows and conferences online.
Leading service providers like IHS Markit are making great strides here. And banks themselves have been quick to adapt. JP Morgan has moved all of its conferences for the rest of the year online, while adding conference calls and other virtual meetings to meet a surge in demand from investors who are tuning in by the thousands. And Morgan Stanley is on record as saying that virtual events will become a mainstay of the corporate access business, even after business travel has resumed.
For issuers, investors and dealers alike this is a huge opportunity to increase the frequency and density of meetings in their calendars, driving network creation and business opportunities at a time when the economic backdrop is hardly favourable.
COVID-19 has presented the world with formidable challenges – and entrepreneurs are responding with new applications of tried and tested technologies. Adoption of video calling has been rapid and widespread, but this is a profound change in the way that we live and it will take some getting used to.
As video calling technology becomes more sophisticated and intuitive, virtualisation will feel less virtual. It will begin to feel natural. Physical interactions will be seen as a way of augmenting and elevating online relationships. Whilst this might sound somewhat extreme to a certain generation who are used to doing business around a table, it’s important for leaders in fields as diverse as finance, healthcare, academia and sport to recognise structural trends towards virtualisation. That’s because they need to future-proof themselves accordingly.
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