The headlines predicted it. Being from the industry, we were definitely concerned. With faster internet it was proclaimed we no longer needed to waste precious time, effort and money traveling to conferences. And we could save the planet to boot! Instead we could "participate" from the comfort of our homes.
In theory it could have been a major disruption, especially in parts of the world with super-fast broadband. Except for one important dimension: as humans, we crave and need human contact. This is especially true in the case of our need to belong to a "tribe", defined as a social group linked by a shared purpose or goal and common culture. A throwback to our basic survival strategies that ensured the propagation of our species.
As helpful as social media has been in terms of connecting people, from across the office to around the world, most "connections" are loose at best. Face-to-face, palm-to-palm, cheek-to-cheek (depending on which part of the world you're in) is still the best way to form a true connection.
Plus there's the issue of scale. A small group using the internet to connect via video-conference can certainly work. And "watching" a conference, passively, is definitely an alternative, if circumstances prevent in-person attendance.
But as the group increases in size, the 'value' for individual participants decreases - no matter how good the technology is. Because it's not about the technology. It's about being in the presence of your community. And the unexpected magic that can result.
With plenty of media coverage around the issue of loneliness these days, like in this Forbes article, or this piece in the New York Times, we see huge potential in the healing power of live conferences.
So no, we don’t ever see a day where webcasting will replace a good conference. But that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels when it comes to delivering a good conference. A topic for another day…
Let's inspire your community - Team UC