The Virtual vs. Physical Event

It was Saturday morning and I woke up to 8 inches of snow.  It was only 7:00 a.m. in the morning and the weatherman was predicting more snow, anywhere from 12 to 18 inches for our area.  I knew the snow was coming, but didn’t think it would hit that hard and with so much force (blizzard like conditions).  Of course, it wasn’t just any old Saturday, it was the Saturday of Event Camp and I needed to be in New York City at the Roger Smith Hotel for a 4:00 p.m. presentation.

As soon as I saw that the snow was almost over my dog’s head, I sent a DM to @jessicalevin and asked her, “Do we have a backup plan just in case I can’t get into the City today?” Notice that I used social media as my preferred choice of communications.  I knew Jessica would be checking her DMs.  She informed me, there was the possibility of doing a Skype video. This way I would be at the event virtually, if I couldn’t make it in person. After all, isn’t that what social media is about? But, I have a confession…it was at that point that I started to stress out…yes, I’m human and I was stressed 🙂  No matter how much the snow came down, I still had my heart set on being in NYC.  I was determined to make it to Event Camp, even if that meant by dog and sled team.

What is it about a physical event that made me so determined when I could have used social media to be a part of this unconference?  That’s where we all have to keep our eye on the ball.  Social media is one of the best things to happen for the event industry and for marketers and PR pros. Yet, there is still so much benefit to getting together face-to-face with a group of like-minded people.

Of course, I made it to NYC with the help of my husband, who is a much better driver in the snow.  And, at the end of my presentation, I participated in a brief interview with the event’s virtual community.  The last question that was, “With all of the snow, what made you so determined to get to Event Camp.”  My immediate response was the pure passion in my heart! For me, it meant so much to me to be in the room presenting and feeling the energy of the audience, meeting the people and talking to one-on-one with people afterward to share ideas.

I think we all realize that social media is incredible, because it enables so many more people from all around the world to access an event and information that just wouldn’t have access to otherwise.  However, there’s a physical component that, in my opinion, cannot be replaced. As much as we can enhance our events with social media, hold virtual events or produce hybrid events, I hope we don’t forget that nothing beats being with people in person, watching their reactions, seeing their heads nod, eyes light up or even seeing what gets them nervous or concerned (I see that every once in a while when it comes to traditional communication vs. social media). In any case, social media will always enhance the success of our events and build a strong community even before the event occurs.  But, if you have a choice or the means to be in person to participate…take advantage of it!

I’m so happy that I made it to Event Camp. The energy and excitement was unbelievable (not to mention the knowledge sharing that was going on during the sessions and afterward in the bar).  The connections I made were incredible and there are people who I will be interacting with in the future.  I’m not sure if I would have made these exact connections or felt the same type of energy, if I wasn’t in person.

Social media gets us excited, molds our passions and energies around a topic of interest and it provides us with incredible and useful information.  It’s the people congregating and sharing who truly make a difference. My advice … if you can ever meet your virtual friends in person then that’s the best event scenario, in my opinion.  What do you think?  Do you believe that in person events enhanced by social media make a better event, or do you think that virtual events will eventually replace our in person connections? And, let me know if you would have traveled in a snowstorm or Skyped your presentation?