London’s (Virtually) Calling

It’s 2021 and while we may be still in the throes of a pandemic, London’s still Calling! Although like everything else it’s calling over web conferencing rather than in person. 2020 did have a small number of speakers attend to present in person at The Brewery, including me! The in-person sessions mostly consisted of one speaker presenting to a subset of the other speakers who were free, in large empty rooms. My session was in the cavernous Porter Tun room, typically used for keynotes and with a capacity of around 800. I’m sure the AV team enjoyed it.

I’m back with another session this year on Org Dependent Packages. As long as I can hit the deadlines from the content team, who need things in place a little earlier than usual.

This year is completely remote, which brings some benefits:

  • No physical event management (venue hire, catering, filming, security)
  • No speakers dropping out on the day due to travel problems
  • A much wider pool of speakers become available – no visas required!
  • A more inclusive event – those that can’t afford a trip to London can certainly afford the ticket price this year.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though, the headaches are still there but they are different this time. A virtual event also needs a platform that can handle the load – I’m sure we’ve all experienced attempting to join an online conference, only to miss out on the first couple of sessions as the service crumbles under the load. 

It must be harder to sell sponsorship and expo space, as there aren’t that many activities that translate well between physical and virtual. One that did translate very well last year was the caricaturist, and we’ll be sponsoring again this year – I’ll be in the queue for a new one with my lockdown (lack of) haircut!

What I miss most about in-person events (aside from the pies!) are the networking and casual conversations. Bumping into someone unexpectedly and spending 20 minutes chatting is very hard to recreate in a virtual setting. Especially when most people are juggling listening to sessions while working. I hope that in February 2022 I’m not writing a blog about the pros and cons of another virtual event. Instead about how I’m looking forward to catching up with a bunch of people I haven’t seen in 2 years!