Wow. Virtually in the space of 5 months, virtually everything in the conference industry seems to have gone virtual. Sure, some small live events and training have managed to happen face to face, but as of August it seems like the whole conference and events industry is moving online.

As a conference MC/Speaker, I, like so many others, have been on very steep learning curve since March, exploring, learning, refining and marketing our virtual skills. It’s been (and remains) a wild, scary and exciting ride.

I know that some people in our industry (platform providers, studios, conference organisers, AV companies and tech types as well as some speakers and MCs) have been successfully embracing online for years, but it always seemed to me that those people were a little like that that slightly odd uncle.

You know the one I am referring to? That eccentric relative who was always at family functions, babbling on about something or other that we needed to pay attention to, that we never paid much attention to. But today I liken this uncle to the “onliners” – the often marginalised, but super-wise people in our industry who, it turns out, were years ahead of us.

They’ve been trying to entice us to embrace online events for ages, but most of us didn’t pay them the attention they deserved. We paid them lip-service, a conference App here, a webinar there, a small live-stream into our live event here, a Zoom call meeting there. Back in the heady days of 2019, we may have live-streamed our Convention Centre conference to 27 largely forgotten people over in WA and NZ, but the event was really aimed at the 500 people live in the room. The onliners were never the main game. Until now.

In fact, until March, the onliners were the outliers, detached from the main face to face conference. They were the odd uncle. And now in 2020 they have become, almost overnight, our favourite family member – the fun, cool and wise old uncle who we never gave enough attention to. Here they now stand, centre-stage and we simply can’t live or work without them. We certainly can’t hold a conference without them. We are all now learning about them – and learning from them.

So thanks for your wisdom odd Uncle Online. Sorry we ignored you. You ain’t odd no more. Looks like you are now the life and soul of the party, for…..well who knows how long? But in one form or another, for the foreseeable future, and most likely forever, you have a permanent invite to every party.

Andrew wishes to make it clear that any reference to his Uncles living or dead is entirely coincidental. Although Uncle Herbert was a little odd.

This article first appeared in the August edition of Business Events News. (BEN).