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The future of mobile work: Are events still in keeping with the times?

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Events, lectures and trade fairs have been an integral part of everyday business life for many people. But circumstances could force us to rethink events. Some suggestions.

The future of mobile work: Are events still in keeping with the times?

Events - an integral part of everyday business life?

For many people, events, conferences, trade fairs and similar events are an integral part of their everyday business life and the prospect of exciting lectures and networking colleagues often offers a real cause for anticipation. It's a little different with me.

I remember mine last panel discussion in Munich: I hurried hectically through the rather noisy, narrow and dark exhibition hall because I had drastically underestimated the way to the venue and was too late. I also struggled with a severe sinus infection and on the way back I had to shiver to reach my train due to a subway jam. A pretty stressful affair that made me decide back then to attend events much more sparingly in the future.

Small private meetings instead of business meetings

That's what I've done since then: From then on, I refrained from meeting people in stuffy exhibition halls without daylight, with whom only superficial conversations were possible anyway and who probably caught something in the air-conditioned air. In any case, the number of events has increased inflationarily for me in recent years.

Instead, I preferred small, more private meetings with selected contacts, for example for lunch, and otherwise preferred to exercise in the fresh air rather than open events. A Conceptthat worked for me and inspired my creativity. My personal incomprehension about the usefulness of anonymous major events has grown even further.

How Corona changed the event culture

And then Corona came. The tourism and event industry was hit hardest financially. And the losses will not be recovered so quickly. The first trade fairs and events with a reduced number of participants are hesitant to take place again, but at the same time many are asking themselves: do we actually need events on the previous scale?

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In fact, I've been asking myself this question since the beginning of the pandemic, when I was able to observe how quickly different organizers were able to switch to digital events and how quickly the otherwise usual lunch meetings turned into walking meetings, which in my opinion in many cases were more productive and be more concentrated - it's not for nothing that I have been writing about for years Hiking meetings among others of the LinkedIn founder Konstantin Guericke. And now Marcus Albers, founder of Rethink, has dared to to ask the question about the end of the events:

“Could it be that the format of the physical live events is currently ending up in the rubbish bin of history - not because of Corona, but because Corona has shown that nobody really misses it? Between us: Do you get nostalgic when you think of a day full of 45-minute expert lectures in which everyone feels like a TED speaker and clicks through endless charts of large-format pictures? Or would you like to sit in the audience of one of these standardized panel discussions, in which the same minds ponderously ponder the same topics? Such formats felt a bit musty even before Corona. "

Classic events - history's garbage dump or hybrid solutions?

But even for Albers, classic events will not just disappear; in his opinion, the future belongs much more to blended and hybrid event formats, i.e. a mixture of digital elements and those on site. According to Albers, however, savings can and must be made on the budget for hotels, travel, transport, accommodation and catering. The money for this should then be better invested elsewhere, namely directly for the content and its technical preparation, because, according to Albers, it is not enough just to film speakers and put them online:

“Virtual events are not simply the online exploitation of existing formats. You have to completely rethink the content for them, true to Marshall McLuhan's insight: "The medium is the message". In the future, the capacity and location of the event location will be less important than good technical equipment and fast internet connections. The role of the moderator is also changing: They have to be able to use tools confidently and produce dynamics without applause. Must online participants and - in hybrid events - those in the room skillfully connect with each other. It's a bit like at the beginning of the last century, when theater actors first had to learn to act in front of the camera. "

New event forms: This is where the challenges lie

For me, this is where the big challenge lies with the hybrid events - and the big problem, because the people on site who can also communicate with body language and all their senses will always have an advantage over those who are only connected digitally.

Event organizers, locations and even entire communities have long since jumped on this digital train. A trick, because the capacities for meetings and congresses have been greatly minimized by the hygiene regulations, so that the people have to be distributed over several rooms. In addition, foreign participants are often unable to travel due to entry regulations.

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which I visited some time ago, they want to help the organizers with a hybrid event concept, for example, to digitally connect the participants, who are spread out in different locations, with one another using technical means. So everyone can listen to the same lecture together and then meet later for networking and joint activities in the fresh air - the place with its mountain backdrop also offers the ideal conditions for such activities.

Conclusion: Rethink events, but don't forget networking

Because, one must not forget, the networking and chance encounters of different participants or, to increase, team building, is the important and actual purpose of such events. And in contrast to Markus Albers, I am of the opinion that we cannot and should not do without it, because the shared experience, feeling, and tasting of people will remain important in addition to the pure transfer of knowledge - and cannot be replaced digitally anytime soon.

Perhaps events need to be rethought not only in the digital direction, but also in the other direction: create more community experiences with movement and fresh air that inspire the creativity of teams and are therefore particularly remembered.

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