2 july 2020, of mice and, you know

It's a tough time for events people that work in the (jargon alert) meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions space, and isn't going to get easier any time soon. Fueling over 1 in 5 international trips, mice is a serious beast. Every industry has its annual shindig, networking, awards, agm or whatever descriptor for movers and shakers getting together and getting things done on the margins (end of jargon). It's going to be rather smaller now though, indeed positively virus dead at the moment, but trying to restart. Falling into the lethal mass gathering category, this is tail-end stuff for most countries' planning, though some, like switzerland, with its solid tracing scheme and 'clean & safe' labelling (expect versions of the same across the planet), are waking. As in every other walk of life, the virtual has filled the vacuum of the viral-ridden physical. Though utterly unsatisfying (it is now traditional to start work conversations with "if I have to sit through one more webinar..."), virtual meetings are evidently better than nothing. Many major events facilities, like in london and new york have been repurposed into hospitals; all, including oman's splendid icon, risk extreme underutilisation. The calculus of high-risk travel physical-meeting costs versus anytime-anywhere screen interaction benefits have changed seismically. Even when planes are flying again with some regularity, the hangover will be long-lasting, with fewer routes, greater costs and higher unpredictability, even as to whether you will be let in at the border or return home without quarantine. Zoom is worth more than the world's top 7 airlines combined. Events companies will close and accelerate diversification. The contact that is the lifeblood of events is now an inherent risk your spouse doesn't want you to take. The pleasure of the journey, the meeting's add-on bleisure opportunities, the warm body-language of greeting have all evaporated. Drinks at a distance. We are all more transactional, and all very quickly learning to be better at doing it virtually. With headline 2021 events as diverse as the oscars, expo and the geneva motor show already postponed and cancelled, it's clear this is long-term impact, more likely permanent. Virtual eventing will innovate and roar forward. The new normal for in-person events will inevitably be safer and sullen, not so much for the older and more vulnerable, lacking in key people, less worth harder travelling large distances for. For all that, it will always be better, and so while it may take a long time, a new, new normal, and some cheese (pronounced vaccine), the mice will return.