Like most conference organizers we are learning to adapt to the new world; a world where physical events are no longer viable (at least in 2020). A world where people are genuinely and realistically concerned that an in-person event would increase their chances of receiving or spreading a life threatening virus.
The question is: Are in-person events a thing of the past?
The answer to that question is a difficult one. Our friends at O'reilly and Associates have permanently canceled their in person events. Our friends in Europe recently canceled the well respected PgConf.EU and Ibiza. We had to cancel our 2020 marque event in NYC in March and our upcoming Silicon Valley conference. The local community organizer website Meetup.com has even modified their capabilities to allow for online meetups.
Humans in general seek out fellow human contact. That contact is usually of reasonably like minded individuals or at least mutual interests. This is why events like Postgres Conference are successful, because irrespective of any personal beliefs we are all there to learn and enjoy fellow Postgres professionals. But are virtual meetups and conferences going to be enough to satisfy that connection or are people going to demand a return to a historical norm?
Even before COVID-19, in-person events came with challenges that put significant pressure on volunteers. Between cultural communication differences, having an independent Code of Conduct committee, pricing, economies of scale, partner demands, and now social distancing, conferences are now going to be more complicated than ever. A room that once could comfortably seat 100 can now only properly sit 30. An exhibit hall is likely out of the question and one-on-one mentoring and networking are likely not going to be viable. How do we work around these limitations? Is it worth it? Are the people in our community even interested anymore or is it time to accept a new norm?
Without question this is a time of reflection, continued development of relationships, and looking into the magic 8-ball; a continual asking of questions to find the right path forward. The pandemic is a tough foe but true leaders are looking forward and trying to find ways to continue to serve. For that to be successful we need your help. We have put together a poll (that can be found here) to gain insight into what opportunities we may be able to pursue in the future. Please take a couple minutes and help shape the future of Open Source events.
As a closing, we are actively moving forward with Digital Events across the globe and have an unending Call for Presentations open for Webinars. If you have any feedback or brilliant ideas, please send them to us via firstname.lastname@example.org.