Until now it has been very difficult for me to attend Power BI meetings and seminars — usually because they are hosted continents away, but even those held more locally are often tricky to get to due to home-life commitments.
One benefit of the proliferation of video conferencing due to global lockdown, is that those of us who cannot normally attend tech community meetings or seminars, can now participate in more virtual live events.
Closer to the action
The key word here is participate. Many events are recorded and published after the fact, which is of course very useful, however there is no substitute for the buzz of attending a live event and interacting directly with the speaker(s).
Larger events that are both physically live and live streamed — such as the annual Microsoft Business Applications Summit — have gone some way towards this, however with lockdown the seminar landscape has shifted slightly in that every participant — speakers, moderators and attendees — are equally physically distanced.
This has caused a fundamental change in the texture of these meetings, dissolving the distinction between those who are ‘really’ there and those who are ‘virtually’ participating. When all participants have video and chat capability, direct interaction is real-time and vastly improved. Not only is (moderated) interaction with the presenter made simple and consistent, but it is now also possible for attendees to initiate dialogue amongst themselves, much like an in-person event, but not restricted to the bar.
Front row seats for all
It has been a really positive experience attending a number of these events, both high-value free events hosted by smaller companies such as Infinity Group, and also larger international talks hosted by the New Scientist. But I was particularly delighted to be able to attend my first London Power BI User Group meeting last week. The sensation of a front-row seat at this friendly event was not only thanks to the organisers and community, but engendered through the delivery medium itself.
In fact, I have it on good authority that at this meeting there was more interaction from the audience than at previous (in-person) events: using the chat function, some smaller groups within the audience could split off and enjoy some brief discussion and Q&As with more experienced members of the group.
It is to be hoped that the use of online conferencing tools becomes part of the new normal toolkit for smaller event organisers, not only would this keep costs — financial and ecological — down for the vast majority of events, but also make them more accessible — not only in time (across multiple time zones, with no travelling) but also space (increasing the upper limit to audience size).
Those events that would take place in-person would be that much more memorable and sizzle even more than they do now.
Image source: MS Teams user guide at UCONN