"I’d be concerned about virtual shows replacing live ones when virtual honeymoons replace the real thing.” So said industry leader Jason Chudnofsky many years ago about virtual shows.
Chudnofsky has been at the forefront of the technology event business for the last two decades, with leadership positions ranging from president of the legendary COMDEX to chairman of the Society of Independent Show Organizers. It was from this informed and influential vantage point that he famously commented on industry fears over the emergence of virtual meetings.
“People felt threatened by what they saw as a revolution that was going to take away their jobs and take face-to-face interaction out of the meetings equation,” says Chudnofsky, now president and CEO of his own Boston-area consultancy, Portfolio Media Group.
But there is a strong business case for virtual or hybrid gatherings. First there’s the issue of travel safety concerns in the wake of 9/11, then there’s the effort toward austerity measures in the wake of the global meltdown.
As Chudnofsky acknowledges, virtual solutions create significant cost savings and other efficiencies, including helping the environment. Yet, when speaking to senior executives and planners in the association and nonprofit industry, he finds persistent apprehension about going the virtual route.
“Virtual technology is simply a tool for augmenting time-honored strategies for connecting people with people, information and opportunities before, during and after the event,” Chudnofsky says.
“Really it’s more of an evolution than a revolution,” he continues, “but by and large, associations are not there yet in terms of applying virtual technology to these strategies.”
That said, leading industry organizations such as PCMA are embracing virtual technology as a means of significantly expanding reach, return on experience and return on investment while preserving that all-important face-to-face component.
“The key to getting it right lies in creating the right balance,” Chudnofsky says.