The majority of us in Europe have been experiencing a long period of lockdown in our houses, working from home (for those jobs that allow it), sharing the flat 24/7 with family (never happened before..!), new habits to build, new way of doing business and new ways of keeping ourselves professionally updated.
This last item of new kind of lifestyle is of interest. In the EPN Consulting website we have an Events section where we publish professional events and deadlines of European funds opportunities (most commonly known as calls for proposals); a couple of days ago, while revising the events websites, we noted that over 80% of the events due to happen between April and September 2020 were cancelled or postponed to the last quarter of 2020 or even to some time in 2021. We worked hard to update the page to provide accurate information to our readers as much as possible, although we still recommend to visit the relevant event website before taking any decision about a potential participation.
As it may happen to many of you, in the last weeks I am pretty busy attending at least one or two webinars a day to keep myself informed. The majority of them are free, but there are some crazy organisations that request some hundreds of Euros to register for an online attendance. In my opinion, these guys have completely lost the common sense for at least a couple of reasons: 1) there are virtually no external costs to organise a webinar as many use free platforms such as Zoom or paid-for platform that are part of a subscription previously purchased or that have become free – with some limitations – in this current emergency period. Virtual events save money on venue hire and catering costs. I understand that some time (i.e. money) has to be invested on the webinar preparation, but the organisers get all details of online attendees, which may represent a good benefit to them. 2) The added value generated by a webinar is definitely lower than what received in a proper conference/seminar/workshop where people can ask questions directly to the panellist(s) of interest (and/or meeting them in person after the event). Besides, in webinars there are not networking sessions during coffee breaks and lunch times where it is possible to meet new people, refresh older acquaintances, be introduced to new professionals, collect leaflets and other material, etc.. All the above is not possible in webinars and Q&A sessions are limited to a selection of questions to be answered; attendees cannot be introduced one to the other (actually, it would not be feasible) but neither their details can be disclosed due to privacy law.
For these reasons online webinars should be kept always free for all.
The positive sides of webinars are triple: a) time saving (I can attend two 1-hour webinar in a day and use just 2 hours of my time); b) money saving (fortunately, the majority of webinars are free); c) zero-emission transport for my attendance as I don’t travel anywhere (there may be some emissions generated by more computers and servers working harder to ensure the broadcasting of webinars and the landline/mobile broadband connections, but this “responsibility” is shared among the attendees).
Certainly, the conference industry will be severely affected for at least the rest of the entire 2020 and all what is directly or indirectly connected such as hotels, events venues, restaurants and cafés close to the events area, transport, taxis, etc. will suffer a lot from these cancellations.
After more than two decades of professional work, I can say I am happy to attend webinars for a quick update of specific topics, but I still prefer to attend a conference/workshop in person and enjoy the invaluable experience of feeling a human being rather than just a professional.
EPN Consulting Founder & CEO