Changing with the times

 

By Toni Cherry

Sometimes you look back and think how accurate a prediction was, even though you may have been sceptical or downright dismissive of it at the time.

I clearly remember a presentation about 15 years ago, when I was working at the BBC, about Electronic Programme Guides. The presenter made a throw-away comment about a time in the future when TV listings would be obsolete because viewer consumption would be independent of scheduling.

My mind was blown – bear in mind this was before the launch of the BBC iPlayer, let alone any of the streaming services that are now part of our everyday lives – and yet here we are, as predicted, in the age of on-demand.

Changing times combined with changing technologies bring changes to viewing habits. It’s hard to go a day without hearing someone talk about how busy they are, how full their schedules are; because people are “time-poor,” we consume content as and when it suits – novels, articles, films, programmes, even webinars.

As far as my own personal development goes, I often sign up to webinars that I’ll be unable to attend, but I know that a link to the recording will be sent out afterwards, so I can view the session at a time that works for me. Which begs the question – are webinars still relevant? Any marketing team knows the time and effort consumed by planning and promoting webinars, not to mention driving attendance – surely on-demand videos are a much better use of time & resources?

Following this train of thought, what about conferences – do they still have a place? In spite of reports from the Events Industry citing growth, and discussion about the importance of engagement and experiences, it feels like there is less enthusiasm for attending conferences. In the current climate, every request for time away from the office must be justified, expenses are carefully scrutinised, non-essential travel must be weighed against environmental impact and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t rolled their eyes and dismissed a colleague heading to a conference as a “jolly” at least once?

Maybe it’s time to bring conferences into the on-demand world in the form of virtual reality or a video game, where users navigate events from their desks, with booths manned by avatars…

What do you think – is it still worth running live webinars? Can you see an end to the days of conference networking? I’d love to hear your thoughts.