When my nephew lived in New York for a few years, we would all cram around the laptop on Christmas Day for a Skype call. It was uncomfortable (too many people with too little screen) and once the ‘What did Father Christmas bring you?’ present lists were recited, the call happily ended.
I used it once for a business call and ended up Facetiming because it was easier to connect. Suffice to say I was no fan.
Fast forward to March 2020 and my organisation was giving us crash courses in delivering presentations over Microsoft Teams. After an hours training, we were deemed tech savvy and ready to present. People were starting to divide into camps – the Zoom vs Teams variety. Whilst this phrase hasn’t made the Oxford English dictionary yet, by 2021 ‘Zoom fatigue’ has well and truly set in.
Online book sales and art works have been unexpected beneficiaries of work and leisure Zoom calls. We have all judged celebrities, politicians and our workmates by their domestic backgrounds.
Those book titles (real or virtual) have been analysed and comments made of the ‘good’ or ‘poor’ taste of those pictures and paintings adorning the walls. Oh, and let’s not forgot those ‘unfortunate’ objects that found their way into these calls. Can anyone better the BBC Wales Today Zoom clip of the dildo taking centre stage on the bookcase of an interviewee?
Whilst people started to tire of Zoom quizzes and award ceremonies that, without the socialising element, started to become dull affairs, I had to decide about one of my own events.
In 2020, I postponed the Inspiring Women Awards for the first time in 29 years. In January 2021, I had to decide whether or not to postpone again or move it online. The former wasn’t really an option so, with real dread, I announced it would go online.
There were a number of reasons I didn’t feel particularly confident, all of the above for a start! But once committed there was no turning back. Ticket sales were low and who could blame those who didn’t fancy it in this format? One of the reasons the awards had enjoyed longevity was the atmosphere it created – how does that work in the ether?
The other reason I didn’t feel particularly confident was the absolute blind faith I had to put in my tech team. Now this was a real challenge. I couldn’t really visualise what they were describing to me. It all seemed vague and there were too many elements that could go wrong. But what other choice did I have?
When the day dawned, I set off to a huge warehouse in Loughborough and from 11am until 5pm I was pretty much glued to my seat in the ‘studio’ with my reputation in the hands of three men and a lady!
The result? I am a convert, in fact if I could always produce the event this way I would! It was slick and smooth. It was fun and inspiring and I didn’t have to stress over anything – no late service of food, no missing finalist and no guest speaker stuck on a train. It was heaven.
What did the audience think? Well, judging by the number of messages that started with ‘Easily the best online event I have attended’ they felt the same. It was as far-removed form a Zoom call as you could get – and maybe that was part of the secret (the rest I’m keeping to myself).
Now I have the challenge of taking those ‘best bits’ of online and transferring them to a real live event! It’s a strange old world.
Main pic: @comparefibre