As we reach the first anniversary of lockdown, event organisers are further forward in some ways than they were a year ago, but no more certain in others. They have been there and done that, but planning for a second lockdown year remains difficult. We are beginning to see decisions being made.
It is no small thing to move from a long-established conventional format of physical attendance to one run wholly virtually. The mixed reactions of delegates perhaps reflects their motives for attending events – if you go mainly for the panels, then you are not much disadvantaged by the shift to online delivery; if you go mainly for the meetings, whether formal or impromptu, then not being there is a serious drawback.
Cost comes into it, of course – for a company selling software or services, it is no small thing to send one person, let alone a team, to a physical event. It also disrupts the day-to-day business of running the business. The fact that everyone is in the same boat is perhaps helpful. Budget once allocated to travel and hospitality, to conference fees and to booth space, can be spent on other, and perhaps more inventive, things. We have all lost the less tangible, but no less important, ability to mix with others, both the hard prospects and the people from whom you expect nothing but the pleasure of their company.
Some organisers have discovered positive benefits in the switch to a virtual event – not necessarily conclusively in favour of this becoming the norm, but at least offering some benefits. Relativity has always (and rightly) made much of the importance of Relativity Fest, its big annual event in Chicago, but it made the best of the switch and had a marked increase in “attendance” for Relativity Fest 2020.
An article of 5 March in Legaltech News was headed Stay Virtual or Try In-Person? Inside Legal Conferences’ Complicated Timing Decision. It reports that Relativity made the decision back in December 2020 to make Relativity Fest virtual for 2021. Relativity made a good job of last year’s event despite the shortness of pivoting time, and were rewarded with a 154% growth in attendance. This year they have both prior experience and time to plan for Relativity Fest 2021, which takes place from 4-6 October.
Relativity Fest London will also be a virtual event, taking place in the afternoons of 18-19 May 2021. The agenda is aimed at people from EMEA, but anyone can sign up to attend virtually. The agenda will be published shortly.
The Legaltech News article also mentions ILTA, whose big annual event ILTACON was what many people thought of as ILTA (though ILTA’s remit was always much wider than that one event). ILTACON will go ahead as a hybrid event, partly held in person in Las Vegas and partly virtually, from 22-26 August.
Surprisingly few organisations have created their own online equivalent of the big events – my point above about redeploying the savings of events costs. Iconic, who specialise in enterprise machine translation and eDiscovery translation, is one who took advantage of the changed world, launching a set of online productions to coincide with Legalweek. Iconic published Iconic Online , a mixture of demonstrations, talks and Q&A sessions covering Iconic’s translation platform INTRA, the Iconic Translation Connector for Relativity, and Iconic’s Bespoke solutions for eDiscovery. That generated not only a live event, but continuing resources on their website, including a Machine Translation Q&A Podcast and my interview with CEO Dr John Tinsley You don’t have to wait for someone else to organise a big event.
Lastly on this subject, a reminder of the Dublin-based Legal Tech Conference 2021, taking place on 25 March – I wrote about it here. I am in the course of assembling the contributions from the participants on my privacy panel, and am very much looking forward to it.