VEG’ers are not just sitting around twiddling their digits. The pandemic has not ended events. Instead, and very quickly, it has evolved them. Here is this week’s news in the world of events, brought to you by the VEG.
January 21 | 3PM EST
Next VEG Group Meetup
Guests include Andrew Morris of Fintech Agenda on managing multi-session conferences and Amit Bhambi’s of the 30Friends social networking tool. Plus the unveiling of our new website for all things VEG.
IS IT 2022 YET?
It would be tone deaf not to notice that while we, in the events world, stay distanced, a mob of protestors (remember when the bad guys wore masks and the rest of us let our faces show?) chose to gather in the midst of a still-escalating pandemic to take violent, destructive action against our democracy. Let’s hope that 2021’s heartbreaking start turns into a year where we regain our dignity as Americans as we begin to be able to gather again in person.
All Eyes on All Digital CES
I need to preface this with the disclaimer that my last company, Living in Digital Times, partnered with CES for more than a dozen years, and we currently consult for them under our new name, Solving for Tech. There’s a lot riding on this large tech show to legitimize the power of virtual events to engage, and also to do "good business."
Post-vacation January has always been an inconvenient time to hold a trade show, but this year, sandwiched between an insurrection, an inauguration, a vaccination rollout, and a tumultuous news cycle, it’s even harder to focus. On the flipside, there’s no need to spend money on airfare, lodging, or overpriced meals. And if you registered early, that’s free too. You can watch all of the activity from your couch from anywhere in the world. And, now that the pandemic has normalized living life online, CE products take on a new relevancy. Sales for the U.S. tech industry hit historic highs in 2020 according to the NPD Group, because so many people were buying notebooks, tablets, headphones, TVs and smartwatches.
The conference programming at CES is really good. Top-in-their-trades speakers offer powerful ideas that focus on upcoming trends in 5G, smart cities, digital health, robots and post-pandemic tech are fascinating. But with the quick news cycles and the pre-taped production, some of it risks appearing a bit dated. One example: The panel I produced on Cryptocurrency was recorded in early December when Bitcoin was at $19,000. Today that number is nearly double at $34k.
One thing you’ll find a bit lacking is interactivity. Digital CES is relying on the Microsoft Teams platform. Teams lets you set up private meetings, and there’s a gorgeous anchor desk set with great talent that will incorporate social media check-ins and some live events, but if you’re thinking about random, serendipitous encounters, chat rooms, gamification or mingle parties, you’ll need to make them happen within Team’s meeting structure, which feels like it is still in its infancy.
What can happen online when you’re showcasing tech is still minimal. How the heck can you judge the quality of an OLED TV or the clarity of a wireless earbud through your computer screen? Some consumer electronics will translate well enough online, but many won’t. And some vendors will be more creative about articulating their product advancements than others.
While something’s lost, something’s gained. Cnet aptly talks about the improved signal to noise ratio as a plus side of virtual CES. Fewer products, about 1,800 exhibitors vs. 2020’s over 4,000 exhibitors, might make the whole thing more digestible.
The future?
In an interview with Steve Koenig, VP of Research at the CTA, on Rohit Bhargava’s The Non-Obvious Insights Show, Rohit asked the $64,000 question: “Will CES 2022 be held in Las Vegas? “ Koening’s answer, “We are planning for a physical show in Las Vegas but will have a virtual component as well.” You heard it here, folks. Hybrids are going to endure.
Shameless plug?
Tune in to CES on Tuesday, January 12 at 6:15pm EST to see Jennifer Jolly (virtual performer and tech journalist extraordinaire) and me attempt a virtual Last Gadget Standing. The show, now in its 21st year (sigh), asks the audience to vote on the best of breed products. (Wear your pajamas; we will too.)
Make no mistake, hybrid is not about doing the same thing in two places. In 2021, we’re going to be re-thinking events as a complete service -- mixing physical with virtual, offering building advice from booth construction to movie production, and creating turnkey exhibit solutions systems that are client-centric in their mix of IRL and virtual.

Over the upcoming weeks, we're going to dive into the expectations of real vs live events. In 2021 I'm betting that top brass who need to sit face to face (and pay top dollar) are more likely to attend physically while junior staff will be expected to learn and network at virtual events. Very different needs, indeed.

Quick Tip: This one from Bob Anthony, long time tech reporter. If you’ve found you’re pantomiming rather than being heard one time too many, try MuteMe. It’s a hockey-puck-size, touch-sensitive mute button that turns colors to let you—and those around you—know if you’re really muted or on the air.

Finally, our new website is about to launch. For your reference, it’ll start with 140 platform reviews and nearly 100 tools. Ultimately it will be a repository where you can find the best of everything virtual, from video production to magicians, from ring lights to laptop stands. Stay tuned.

Stay safe and virtual,
Robin and the VEG Team
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About Us
Send any tips and thoughts you have about virtual events. contact Robin Raskin,
Founder, Solving For Tech
201.564.7900 | 917.215.3160 | @robinr