I’m an events professional and lover of everything live so it may sound odd to say that I’ve embraced virtual events and I think they have a huge role to play in the live events industry - even as we move out of lockdown toward the magical 21st June start date.
I’m a member of the ASD (Association of Sound Designers) and since March we have been holding regular networking and educational events over Zoom. At our regular social event ‘The Harmonic Inn’ there are about 10 to 15 usual suspects and others who pop in occasionally. We can all chat about what’s going on, what’s coming up and how we’ve all been. I’ve connected with old colleagues and I‘ve ‘met’ some really great people who I may not otherwise have come across, and I have found virtual events much more accessible than real life ones.
I was always a little hesitant about attending networking evenings before – I’m the typical ‘behind the scenes’ kind of person. I work literally behind the scenes to help others sound great, so I’m not one for putting myself centre stage. Going online helps me to connect with people that I’d never connect with at a real-life networking event. The ASD has come under fire in the past for being "London centric" and there have been moves to make it more accessible and inclusive - such as a travel assistance scheme to make the journeys to training events more affordable, and also recording seminars and making them available to watch back online. Holding social and educational sessions on Zoom has made it easy for my fellow members to join from all over the country and the world in real time, no-one has to trek into town, and there’s no fear of missing the last train home. This year I held a training session and attended others as part of the ASD’s Winter School and holding them virtually has allowed us to create focused and concise content for members to access really easily.
Traditionally, pre-Covid when I was working on a show as a Sound Designer and Engineer I’d often have to come into the theatre or rehearsal room to attend a production meeting. These meetings were essential, but often my attendance would only be needed to answer one or two questions. A regular in-person production meeting – with four hours of travel time each time - would have eaten into the budget and limited the number of shows that I could practically work on at any one time. But by holding production meetings over Zoom, this has saved me loads of time and money and it could even impact on how engineers and designers work and what we could achieve - by opening up the opportunity for us to be able to work on more shows at a time. It could also enable me to work in Manchester or Glasgow whilst still designing the sound for a show down south.
Many have predicted the demise of live in favour of virtual, but it is not one or the other; Zoom is not a substitute for live, and I can’t wait for my industry to create live events once more. But I do think that virtual meetings are helping us all to work smarter, more productively and actually helping show production teams to create amazing live events - and that is a very positive thing to take away from lockdown.
If we can find a way to move forward with a hybrid meeting approach, I feel that it will be a positive move forward for accessibility and productivity within the industry.