You Simply Have to be There

In looking at my website, I realized it has been a while since my last posting. For such a short month, February managed to pack quite a bit in. I've been working on a couple of upcoming events, digging out from under, snowicane, snowmaggedon, snowpocalypse or whatever the latest bout of winter weather has been dubbed by the media and watching what has been so aptly dubbed “The Human Drama of Athletic Competition.” Otherwise known as the 21st Winter Olympic Games.

While I admit that I thought some of the closing ceremony was a bit weak and personally I could have done with less William Shatner, I was however very impressed with the opening ceremony. I thought the Canadians put on quite a show. While not as over the top as at the Beijing games, the skillful blending of projection, lighting, sound, set pieces and live action created a memorable experience. One that at times left this event producer amazed and envious at the creativity and skillful blending of all these elements. The whales swimming across the floor of the BC Place was visually stunning and simply breathtaking. But I will confess that as I watched the events unfold, I also felt a sense of missing something.

Which was strange. As a TV viewer, I had a ringside seat for 17 days to the the best moments of the best events of all of the Olympic competitions. Yet simply watching the competition at times left me unfulfilled. I was an observer, a viewer not an active participant. Now I will be the first to admit that any competitive days I might have had, have long since passed into history, but not my ability to participate and support by my presence.

In these hard economic times, live events have taken quite a beating, with the media and elected officials calling them a needless extravagance and suggesting that video conferences and webcasts could accomplish the same thing for less cost.

In this age of television, and the internet with instant access to almost anything, what is the value of live events? Why would anyone go to sit in a cold stadium or stand out in the cold for hours to watch skier after skier whiz past in the blink of an eye? And by extension, why would anyone want to take the time to actually attend a business meeting when they can watch or listen to the stream on their computer or attend a virtual event?

But, let me ask, if all things were equal who had the richest experience during the Gold Medal hockey match between the US and Canada? Where would most of the fans rather have been? Nothing we read or saw on the internet or watched on television could match the experience of actually being in that arena with 17,000 other cheering fans during that match - regardless of which team you supported.

Television, video conferences and webcasts are great tools and great enhancements to live events, allowing more people to see and hear the action, but they cannot provide the full sensory experience that is an integral and essential part of a live event. As the Olympic experience shows, this coming together is still important and relevant. And it is no less relevant or important if the reason it is a business meeting, corporate event or fund raising dinner.

Technology despite all it's advances is not and never should be considered a replacement for the value provided by live interaction. Television and the Internet can show you what it looks like, what it sounds like, but never what it feels like to be there and to share the continuous, face to face, personal interaction of active participation. For that, you simply have to be there.

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