Time to turn 16 months of screen time into face-to-face time.
“On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again…” Willie Nelson
Oh, this is so exciting. Things are bouncing back. Even here!
Ah, you don’t get my excitement. I am on the other side of the pond, over here in Europe—to be precise, in Germany. We are just about to partially lift the lockdown and get a glimpse of what life will be like after 16 months of close to zero human interaction, never mind traveling or in-person events or meetings.
I know in the U.S., the first in-person events already took place. Small groups of guests only, but who cares! I’ve already made a list of conferences for 2021 I want to start attending as soon as I am back, and it is getting longer by the day: INg Executive Annual Forum in Aurora, Colorado; Inkjet Summit in Austin, Texas; BTA National Conference in Coronado, California; PRINTING United Expo in Orlando, Florida; XPLOR21 in Florida; and thINK Ahead in Boca Raton, Florida.
And then there is the list for Europe for 2021: PDF Days Europe in Berlin and FESPA Global Print Expo/European Sign Expo 2021 in Amsterdam.
Croatia is also looking into bringing some events back in 2021. Let’s see: Hunkeler Innovation days —oh, that’s already pushed to 2022—and InPrint Munich, which is also moving from June 2021 to March 2022.
Yes, that is my current 2021 list. There may be more coming but so far, so good. The year 2022 looks a bit better but not yet overwhelming. We shall see.
But why is it that most of us are missing in-person meetings and events so much? I remember days at a conference where I thought, OMG, another hour and my feet are killing me (or I’ll kill someone coming too close to my feet), another presentation, and I start screaming, another flight, and I am losing track of where I am. After a year and a half without conferences, I am missing all of this so much, the “Hey, good to see you! What force dragged you here?”, the socializing after a hard day’s work, the flights, the packing, unpacking.
Business as usual for my company, 3 Across The Sea, means everything digital, communications, presentations, signatures, document storage, you name it. But people, the feeling of shaking someone’s hand, clinking glasses during happy hour, looking someone in the eye when talking to them—that is what makes every extra second we spend working worth it.
Articles are already circulating the internet, suggesting we should feel guilty leaving such a massive carbon footprint while traveling for business. The COVID year is the ultimate evidence. Other reports indicate we will overcome video conferencing fatigue and fear eventually, and we will feel much happier not going to in-person meetings/events.
Well, it might get a bit better, but looking back at some 16 months of virtual events, it’s a lot of Death by PowerPoint. You’re on mute! Can you hear me? Internet’s slow today, sorry! Can you resend the meeting link, I think I can’t join? Is it a Zoom meeting—can’t join it for security reasons. Can you make this a Teams meeting? Are you recording? Can you send me the recording? Oh, I think we lost our guest speaker.
I’m not sure I even want to get used to this.
And more importantly, the human factor. I am afraid I am still of that generation where we appreciated human interaction, where long-term and high-budget trust comes with having met at some point of the deal and where relationships start and deepen during in-person get-togethers. Old fashioned? Maybe, but a bit of nostalgia in a fast-paced, technology-dominated world is necessary to keep things real. It also helps us better understand who our customers are and what they actually need, not what the industry or an algorithm suggests they should need based on their buyer persona.
My suggestion going forward would be to consider co-hosting events, more than you already do. And add a virtual option to live events. That way, we can choose and gradually grow into this new, virtual business world.
“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door…
The taxi’s waitin’, he’s blowin’ his horn
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go…” John Denver
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