Editor's column: The future of the virtual conference

Aug 05 | 2020

We hear this month that the IAM conference, in October, will be held virtually.  No great surprise there of course and, I suspect, there will be many people who are secretly relieved.  We can all live with a conference being cancelled, because if nobody is going, we can relax.  But the thought of an event that we can’t, or daren’t go to, plays with the heads of most people in this industry.  You never know what you are missing, do you?

I have no idea what a virtual IAM will look like, but I am sure that IAM will make it as good as the latest technology allows it to be.  In fact, I’m strangely excited to see what rabbits they pull out of the hat.  Whatever they do, I wish them every good luck and trust that the whole industry will come out to support them.  There has been a mantra since March that if we all pull together, we will get through this: well now’s your chance to show a little solidarity. 

I really hope that the IAM conference is a raging success.  But I am also quite confident that, however good it is, it will not stop everyone wanting to get in a huddle as soon as science allows. We have all ‘enjoyed’ our long-distance chats on Zoom, I was even involved recently in an AGM on Zoom which was very successful, some said better than the real thing … but it’s not better. For the people in this industry, who are used to working and playing together and making the two almost indistinguishable, there is no technology that will ever replace a hug, a handshake and a few margaritas on the hotel terrace.  So, for those who have to organise these things, I don’t think you have any need to worry.  Post COVID, I predict your attendance going through the roof.

That said, there will be lessons learned. It’s now obvious that virtual meetings have a place and, probably, so will composite meetings where there is a virtual element to a traditional format.  You’ll be able to be there, ask questions and voice your opinion, even if you can’t be there in person. Audiences could increase dramatically. My guess is that meetings, and conferences, will never be the same again… they will be better.

Steve Jordan, Editor, The Mover