If you’re in the business of trade shows, conventions, or live events of any kind, there has been a tremendous trend toward moving to virtual events.  That’s certainly a logical decision to make. It’s not necessarily a revolutionary idea, however.  On the contrary, as necessity is the mother of all inventions, it’s inevitable.  

That being said, if everyone runs to the same side of the boat at the same time, it capsizes.  If all business goes virtual, there will be a glaring chasm, a virtual black hole, if you will, that will be felt by all. “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” John F. Kennedy

Just stop for one moment and imagine a world where there are ONLY virtual events.  Can you envision it?  Do you aspire to that? Do you believe that it is congruent with human nature to physically distance…permanently?  It’s certainly hard to imagine a world without in-person social interaction.

We’re already seeing the resistance on the part of a great number of people to being instructed to self-isolate. There have been major protests asserting the “right” to congregate, citing their first amendment rights.  Many people are literally putting their lives and the lives of others at risk to assert their desire (and maybe need) to be out physically interacting with others.

Consider for a moment, is it possible that this shift to virtual events could actually create better opportunities for live events?  Convention centers and arenas aren’t going to just shut their doors permanently.  There is legitimate hope that we will see some semblance of a tentative return of some events in 2020. The secret is in cleverly designing events that will allow people to congregate and interact while keeping them safe in a way that isn’t in their faces. It doesn’t sound like much fun to have caution signs everywhere when you’re trying to have a good time. This quandary in itself could invent an entirely new business model.  

And consider another possibility.  What if we could meet in the middle?  What if we could provide real-life interactions that were combined with augmented reality and other technologies that deliver experiences to the consumer instead of vice versa…the best of both worlds?  High tech with high touch! 

Take, for example, Optimal Station, an innovative company that started with custom vending machines and subsequently conceived and executed fully branded experiential marketing environments centered around ingenious automated retail and augmented reality technology.  When COVID-19 disrupted the world of event marketing, Optimal pivoted, inventing hybrid Stations that provide experiential marketing in conjunction with automated retail, allowing brands to interact with consumers while providing products within the environments where they are needed.  Optimal Station proved that you don’t have to get people to the marketing event…you can take that activation to the people with portable pop-up hybrid Stations.

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 is not a business environment for the timid and unimaginative, and don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s going to be easy.  However, businesses and individuals can choose to stick their collective heads in the sand and hope for things to improve, or they can make things happen.  “Though nobody can go back and make a new beginning… Anyone can start over and make a new ending.” —Chico Xavier