At the core, many industry events across media, marketing, entertainment and other fields focus on the celebration of excellence within the field. A self-congratulatory gathering of illuminati culminating in translucent statues handed out to deserving guests. And I too, am a willing participant.
COVID-19 has led to many events having to be postponed or canceled, from SXSW & Cannes to Coachella, and even the MET Gala. As the number of webinars, digital-first conferences and interactive events rises thanks to companies like Zoom, we’re also seeing correlating fatigue among participants.
Is the reality of physical (or social) distancing at odds with the gratification of LIVE events? Or can it be that industry insiders are focused on primary connections with colleagues, friends and loved ones?
While people invest in conferences because of networking (person-to-person engagement) and learning opportunities, they are also primarily spaces for self-promotion and exposure. This latter sense of fulfillment is in jeopardy given the restrictions that are currently in place as it applies to those events.
In the absence of these opportunities in tandem with the psychological ramifications of a prolonged crisis, Harvard Business Review suggests that in order to build resilience during a crisis,
“…meaningful connection can occur even from the recommended six feet of social distance between you and your neighbor — and it begins with compassion. Compassion is the intention to be of benefit to others and it starts in the mind. Practically speaking, compassion starts by asking yourself one question as you go about your day and connect — virtually and in person — with others: How can I help this person to have a better day?”
The possibility exists, even if temporary, that the focus on virtual connectivity during the crisis is about strong emotional bonds with close family, friends, and colleagues rather than self-aggrandizement or “opportunities” that are more typically associated with industry events.
It’s sobering to consider the truths that underpin typical work events and conferences, but equally heartwarming to see that when the fabric of society is interrupted, we turn to one another for meaningful comfort.
In speaking with career coach, Barbara Phillips (Partners International) recently, she referenced William Bridges and his research in describing this aspect of behavior as “Radical Self Care.” Specifically, during this crisis, millions have identified that “staying connected” is important to them and in order to fulfill this need and satiate themselves, they have leveraged technology as a tool for fueling this deep-rooted desire.
The result is what feels like a kinder and gentle, albeit fragile, world.