Why We’re Saying “No” to Virtual Conferences

As a small, research-based organization with a global audience, COVID-19 hasn’t changed too much of our day-to-day operations at BAI. We’re still able to conduct new research, build our library of resources, connect the business agility community, and more! However, the pandemic has certainly changed our plans for the future in regard to one of the cornerstones of our work: international conferences.

You may have seen our recent announcement regarding the postponement of the 2021 Business Agility conference in New York City to 2022. We made this difficult decision in order to protect the health of our community as COVID-19 shows little sign of abating. All of the guidance we received helped us to make this decision, as we were assured that a large gathering in a large city would be a public health risk, even in 2021.

This brings up an obvious question: why not pivot to a virtual conference experience? This seems like a fantastic idea . . . at first. There’s no risk of transmitting the virus through a computer (a physical virus, at least!). We can still provide an exciting speaker lineup and facilitated deep-dive discussions. We can even carve in time for networking and learning from one another, just like we do at the in-person event.

There are some great online conferences coming up, and we encourage you to take advantage of those opportunities. However, we’ve decided against taking our conferences online. One of the key aspects of our Business Agility Conferences is the human connection. We strive to create an environment where real relationships can form. Our deep-dive discussion groups, speakers’ corners, and social events (the last two years, it’s been a Broadway show!) are all designed to bring people together. We don’t feel we can create the kinds of meaningful connections our events are known for on an online platform.

We also face the problem of “Zoom fatigue” in 2020. So many of us spend our entire workday in virtual meetings. An online learning event may feel a lot like an extra work burden rather than an opportunity for growth and connection. An in-person conference doesn’t feel like work. There’s something special and unique about getting the opportunity to step out of your normal workspace and into a collaborative environment where knowledge and insights are shared freely. After piloting a few online events this year, we’ve decided to focus our energy on the future when we will be able to meet in person again.

For those who were looking forward to the conference, there will be many other opportunities to learn, share, and discuss the latest business agility stories and concepts with others in the community. We’re not saying “no” to online events completely–in fact, we’ve got some really exciting opportunities coming up that you’ll want to keep an eye out for!

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