Would you engage in a conference “online” rather than attending?

Tourism trade conferences this month include Trenz (May 7-10 in New Zealand) and Indaba (May 12-15 in South Africa).

It will be interesting to see how these events compare in regards to live-streaming video and tweeting. We have good friends at both events and we plan to monitor their Twitter channels to bolster our awareness of tourism and conservation.

The question to be answered in 2012 is ‘has the penny dropped?’ Do event organizers make it easy for participants in the brick-and-mortar convention centers to share with the world the goings on? Do event organizers know how to tap into the unseen participation from those online?

Last year’s Indaba set the benchmark for hosting the Responsible Tourism in Cities Workshop streamed live around the world. The presentation I delivered – We Suck @ Collaboration – was viewed in real-time by 100 people in the auditorium and more than and another 150 simultaneous virtual delegates who joined via live-streaming video and real-time Twitter. Since then this presentation has garnered 47,000+ views on Slideshare.

Other big time tourism conferences joined the party by offering live video, including November’s World Travel Market and to a lesser degree the ITB in Berlin.

There’s no single recipe here that traditional travel conferences can use to interact with online participants, so we look forward to the surprises ahead in South Africa and New Zealand.

I should add that the intersection of virtual and physical participation is not limited to tourism conferences. We are paying attention to the upcoming Rio+20 and the World Conservation Congress.

My question for you, dear reader, is how would you like to ‘engage’ with conferences of personal interest even though you have no intention of attending in person?

5 thoughts on “Would you engage in a conference “online” rather than attending?

  1. Too right I would! Attending conferences every year or far from you base is expensive, not to mention time consuming.
    Don’t get me wrong, attending conferences such as TRENZ is vital for networking and industry relationships, but for many it’s not possible every year.
    Live video streaming can’t replace all the benefits of attending but you can at least still see presentations and maybe through tools like Skype even join in discussions to some extent.
    Organisers should consider this as a valid form of attendance and provide as much opportunity as possible to enable “online attendance”.

  2. Let’s do the breakdown:

    Many of the participants at the conference will have social media. To what degree will they be able to use this to communicate with colleagues on site and colleagues in New Zealand and elsewhere around the world?

    Many of those online have friends and colleagues at the conference. We can help the match-making process, news amplification, not to mention curation if we create Delicious Stacks or Storify features.

    Personally from my viewpoint in Mexico (!), I’m watching with great interest the upcoming hashtag battle pitting #Trenz2012 with South Africa’s #Indaba2012. Have a look! http://hashtagbattle.com/#battle/w/%23indaba2012/%23trenz2012

  3. The reality is that very few conferences have got anywhere near to managing a transition to a digital environment. And thus are missing out on a substantial, virtual audience.

    A few tweets here and there, or even a blog, still go nowhere towards satisfying this larger audience that may be interested in the information on hand, or the proportional opportunities. Most conferences are “non-inclusive” (to varying degrees) by the very nature of their geographical and registration constraints.

    Digital conferencing is more inclusive, but has as many (different) “problems”, as analogue. Inevitably however digital is going to replace a proportion (how large is the debate) of physical conferences. Except for one element, networking. Sure, social networking exists; but personal, face-to-face networking is hard to beat. You can do a lot of business over a cup of coffee or glass of wine that can’t happen online.

    I go to many conferences, speaking and attending, yet also participate in many virtual ones. One could argue I learn as much, or more from virtual sources. No, I won’t even argue that. I do.

    Will I still go to “real” conferences? Yes. Most conference organisers need to get far more digitally savvy yet and appeal to far more widespread audiences, thus offering greater value to participants.

    Probably the best example of a “digital” conference is Webstock in Wellington, if only because they record all speakers and upload them for public viewing. If anything (ironically), this inspires me to attend even more.

  4. Thanks, Lawrence

    Great comments.

    I want to check out the Webstock in detail and I’d encourage you to have a look at Auckland’s NetHui of which I am a big fan for similar reasons. It really makes me want to be there in person!

  5. This week Auckland hosts NetHui and since I’ll be on the other side of the Pacific, my participation will be online. Check out the programme — http://nethui.org.nz/programme — and the ways to participate — http://nethui.org.nz/participate

    I’m taking quite a few of these ‘lessons learned’ and channeling them into a presentation I’m developing on Slideshare called ‘Engaging Events.’

    Many, many thanks to everyone for comments here and elsewhere on the Web

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