Consider virtual events to supplement — not replace — the in-person experience

March 13, 2020
While the advisable course right now is to develop “social distancing” plans, I can’t help but point out that there are still opportunities for our industry to share information in the digital space, which can happen in addition to in-person events.

Literally every sector of every industry right now is scrambling to make responsible and difficult decisions about travel, in-person meetings, and gatherings such as tradeshows, conferences, and seminars. I am not even using the word “literally” as a throwaway here, friends this past week, even my hair stylist had to repurpose a professional work trip into a personal one in order to maintain a level of sanity and recoup expenses after a huge exhibition was cancelled while she was en route. I am grateful to say that, so far, this particular scenario has not happened to any of my colleagues while traveling to a recent industry event. And add to the list of LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) sector events that have been postponed or cancelled, as we just learned that the LightFair organizers are postponing the largest North American lighting show and looking at future dates.

We also learned this past week that the big Optical Networking and Communications Conference (OFC) in the fiberoptic networking industry decided to run online sessions to try and reach registrants who were unable to attend (we have seen reports that perhaps around 1000 people attended the San Diego event in person versus the expected tens of thousands). My colleague Stephen Hardy, formerly my editor at Lightwave, also stayed put in our Nashua location and did not attend OFC, but he still covered it like gangbusters in his weekly video wrap-up and e-newsletters.

Surely you’re asking me to get to the point, hand doing that rolling forward motion. I’m not offended, I’m getting there. While it is true that the safest course is to simply maintain a close watch on health advisories and develop “social distancing” plans, I can’t help but point out that there are still opportunities for our entire industry to meet virtually that is, in the digital space, such as live web chats and also in online webcasts to maintain some level of information flow and educational content sharing. Please be clear that I am not saying we should replace our in-person events with digital ones. There is absolutely plenty of viability for the conference and exhibition format! and we ourselves in the LED & Lighting Network team work very hard to organize events such as Strategies in Light, HortiCann Light + Tech, and the Sapphire Awards ceremony. (In fact, we are very actively seeking abstracts for HortiCann, so please do e-mail those to Maury Wright.) We understand the commitment to finding quality presenters and seminar leaders, formulating compelling conference outlines, and supporting exhibitors in their goals to attract good business prospects. But there is room always for online gathering and meaningful information exchange. In fact, we should do it more often regardless of our travel circumstances. I urge you to contact us if you are sitting on a topic that propels your work in either R&D or commercial development, and let’s work together to bring a useful educational opportunity to light.

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