January and February this year were normal months – spent delivering events and comms for our clients the same way we always have. In the background was Covid-19, but it was an issue in the press and had zero effect on our business.
That all changed on March 2nd when, 21 days ahead of the official UK lockdown, we had never heard the phrase ‘14 days of self-isolation’ but were learning to elbow pump with wry smiles on our faces our first event was cancelled.
Within a week we had an alternative solution where we hired hotel meeting rooms, filled them with AV kit, sets, cameras and lights – technicians and of course presenters. The only change was not having a physical audience in the room. We were successfully delivering high quality interactive webcasts for our clients.
We perfected our elbow pumps, assumed this was our temporary new world and settled in, still five days from the Government’s next update – and then it came, total lockdown for three weeks.
On March 23rd we became virtual… on reflection that week was a mush, no more London office, no more face to face meetings, no filming but the advent of life on Zoom.
Dusting ourselves off, on 1st April we delivered our first 100% virtual event – myself and the crew all connected from our homes via comms – our presenters cleverly connected via two way Skype calls and live graphics. A steep learning curve but a successful one for all involved. This is our new normal but its temporary right? Just three weeks.
The release of the PMs 50-page document on 11th May hid within it permission for us to start filming again, in fairness it took a few days to find it but it’s there. Why is that important for us and our clients?
Virtual is fine – but our tolerance of chatting in cubes, dodgy wi-fi and seeing the inside of our colleagues homes will wear thin. And whilst we can cleverly bring speakers together on an array of platforms – are we really getting the best out of them?
The ‘known known’ if there is such a thing, it will not be possible to bring large audiences together physically for the foreseeable future – my anecdotal and unqualified research suggests for at least the rest of this year.
So I believe we are moving at pace again into a hybrid world of sorts – speakers in the near future coming together (socially distanced of course), but in the same room – allowing the nuances and benefits of presenting together as we were back in February this year. Still no physical audiences of course – but more immediacy, spontaneity and interaction that comes with being together ‘in the room’ as opposed to being ‘in the cube’.
This is probably our new world until 2021 – but it’s good news for our clients and for our audiences. I will give a virtual, hypothetical, socially distanced non-contact elbow pump to that.