I last attended a conference in person with real people in February, and I confess I miss them.
I do not miss the early starts to catch a train, invariably to London, or the late nights by the time I get home.
I think I was up before 6am on that day back in February to get the early train down and it was around 9pm by the time I got home.
In the intervening months I have attended a number of virtual conferences, the last one for the year being last week. One thing I have noticed is the tendency to run them over multiple days.
Why? Few, if any, conferences would last more than a day before, so why do the organisers think they can run a conference over two, three or even five days just because I am working from home?
I still have to take time away from client work to attend and even with ones that leave gaps between sessions I have found that you cannot really do anything productive in the time.
I have also found that the overall quality of presentation has been lower; maybe they struggle to fill the extra time when it is spread over so many days and speaking slots.
I have certainly struggled to maintain my attention, even on the best sessions, when looking at a screen and not a presenter on a stage.
But it is the human element I miss the most: the interaction with my fellow planners, catching up with people – even if it is only for a short while – over the morning coffee break or a longer chat at lunch.
Discussing the speakers and what we have heard, or just: “How are you and the family? How’s business?”
It is also harder for the presenters as well. Presenting to a computer screen gives them no feedback, no energy from the audience and they have no idea what is working well and what is not.
They cannot react to the room and it is easy for even the most experienced to become a bit flat, and of course any audience interaction is almost out of the question.
So I, for one, hope to see you, for real, in person, at a conference in 2021.
Darren Cooke is a chartered financial planner at Red Circle Financial Planning