2020 will, in the years ahead, be remembered as the beginning of the digital decade. An era of huge digital transformation. In 2015, The Webinar Vet changed its webinar provider from one of the early adopters, GoToWebinar, to a new up and coming, promising platform called Zoom. Zoom has been one of the big beneficiaries of the move to online for webinars, school lessons and even family meetings. It grew its user base 30-fold and increased its turnover by 326% in 2020! “Are you coming on Zoom?” has become a new phrase.
Security was a problem at the beginning of the pandemic. Various companies have improved their platforms and big players like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet has come in to raise standards further with additional passwords and other security features. Many people have become more familiar with the technology and are less afraid of going to virtual events and conferences.
As the lockdown is loosened in the UK, there will be a desire by many to get out to physical events, but sponsors and corporate attendees will remain conservative in their approach until the end of 2021. Big brands do not want to be associated with further outbreaks. That is why hybrid events will become the next big thing. There will be small groups in the conference centre following social distancing protocols whilst others will watch from home. These new events may cost a premium to be in the room to network whilst those at home will make do with virtual networking or none at all.
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New conferencing apps like Hopin have appeared but there will still be a place for high quality teams co-ordinating the event to make sure that delegates have an enjoyable, educational experience. An online app replaces the conference centre, it does not replace all the organisation that a professional conference organizer brings to the organisation. Virtual 3D conference centres are also appearing which allow delegates to navigate around the stands and also enter virtual networking rooms.
Hybrid events also have the benefit that they will probably be recorded and be available for a period after the event which allows delegates to study the other lecture stream which is impossible to do at a live event but also to go over previously watched material that was not well understood. Careful tracking of what has been watched, along with small tests to check retained knowledge will make these events much more useful for professionals who need to do a certain number of hours each year to keep their licence.
The Coronavirus pandemic has been a time of great suffering for many people across the world. Hopefully in a few years’ time it will be seen as a time of sacrifice but also a wake- up call and a time to reset for the benefit of the environment. If carbon continues to be released into the atmosphere at the same rate over the next decade, it will be impossible to keep temperatures two degrees below pre-industrial levels which was the target set at the Paris climate conference in 2015. If we are unable to do this, more extreme weather will lead to untold misery around the planet. We, therefore, have an obligation to make more use of digital events post-pandemic and limit over travel to exotic conferences.
However, many people have also seen other benefits from virtual events as well as the obvious environmental ones. There are huge cost-savings on travel, accommodation and time. The time savings alone help us to be more productive in work and have more time with family and friends.
In the next five years, the technology to allow greater interactivity at congresses will increase. Microsoft have recently released Mesh which enables presence and shared experiences from anywhere using mixed reality applications like Hololens 2. This allows attendees to be teleported into a virtual space to create a much more immersive experience with conference delegates being able to meet up with each other as avatars.
Conference delegate wearing a Hololens or something similar will feel like they are at the event moving around the exhibition hall, sitting in the lecture theatre with the speaker or having a coffee and chat with friends. This is a first phase of an evolution towards a Metaverse which will be a virtual reality-based successor to the internet using much of the technology that has been developed by the video games industry.
If you’ve been impressed by the versatility of video conferencing platforms during this period of enforced isolation, then prepare to be wowed as digital change happens very quickly as we move through the 2020s- the digital decade! The educational experiences will become increasingly more vivid and three dimensional.
Founder and CEO, The Webinar Vet
Anthony Chadwick, a serial entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of The Webinar Vet, the largest online veterinary education provider in the world. He is one of the most recognised and respected thought leaders in the UK veterinary sector.
Anthony founded The Webinar Vet in 2010, when the word webinar was not in the veterinary dictionary. A vet by trade, whilst at an internet conference he spotted a gap in the market to make veterinary education and training more accessible and affordable, via the medium of webinars. Trailblazers in the industry, the company grew very quickly and now has over 40,000 veterinary professionals accessing the training in over 120 countries. Students currently spend a combined annual total of approximately 60-70,000 hours a year training on the site.