Physical Distancing and Social Connection

In this unprecedented time of fear and isolation, the term “social distancing” has now become a part of our daily language.  But that term doesn’t fully capture what we really need.  While we all clearly must physically separate to contain the spread of COVID-19, more important now than ever is to maintain and build social connections. Maybe instead of “social distancing” we need to create a new, broader term like “physical distancing and social connection”.

Thankfully, we now have the tools to do exactly that.  Strong social networking platforms, phones in every pocket, and excellent video communication tools, combined with the bandwidth to use them, connect us even when we need to stay physically apart. These tools are getting so good that when the panic eases and we find a new normal, more people than ever will continue to work from home.  We’ll use networks of all types to work and socialize, and more business communications and education will take place online via purpose-built video platforms.

S3 has been in the conference business for over 20 years and we’ve experienced several business and technology adoption cycles albeit none as far reaching as this.  As we speak with our clients and conference producers 2 things are becoming clear:

  1. Physical conferences are taking a pause but will be more important than ever.

First, physical conferences aren’t going away.  In fact, they’ll become more important than ever.  On-location conferences are essential to creating human interaction and sharing new ideas. Nothing can replace in-person contact and being able to read body language as we interact with others. Physical conferences also enable socialization, unplanned interactions, and the ability to see and feel new products firsthand.  We are gearing up for an exceptionally busy fall as conference organizers postpone events from the spring conference season.

  1. This is the year of virtual conferences, and they’re here to stay.

Second, we think some conferences will change format permanently.  Conferences that focus purely on exchanging information can reap the benefits of an optimized online platform including eliminating travel time and expense, while increasing the efficiency of knowledge transfer. While we had already begun to see an increase in the number of online conferences, this pandemic has accelerated that trend. What we envision next is the virtual conference itself will be re-imagined from the bottom up to optimize the total experience for thought leaders, audiences, and conference producers.

Big change is often painful, but good, surprising outcomes are often the result.

What do you think?

Have you attended or created a virtual conference recently?  If so, how was your experience?

Do you have plans to experience a virtual conference in the coming several months?  If so, what are your expectations?