It’s been a very busy year for me, so I haven’t had much time to blog. But, here we go!
This isn’t a technical post, but more of an opinion piece. I’ve split this post into two parts. Part one was written before I spoke at the OATUG (Oracle Applications and Technology Users Group) Forum online. Part two was written after I spoke.
Part 1: Before…
The global pandemic has disrupted virtually everything in our world. The same goes for the world of IT, including one of the best things about our industry: Conferences and live events.
I was supposed to attend two major conferences in the first quarter of 2020. One was cancelled and the other became an online event. Aborting major events like these is no trivial undertaking. Not only for the organizers themselves but also for all the sponsors and attendees (customers and vendors included).
Huge events like Oracle Open World, Google Next, or the one that will be the focus of most of this post, Collaborate, have a long-lasting impact that extends throughout the year. At these events, a casual meeting or a chat during a coffee break can kickstart a relationship. It might develop into a large services agreement, a partnership, or a whole new successful startup.
You have to agree that these events are important, if not crucial, for our industry.
As for Collaborate, well, I was very excited to not only attend but also speak at the event. After attending DOAG, BIWA, and UKOUG the previous years, Collaborate is the next big Oracle-related event in which I’d be participating. Then, of course, came COVID-19.
However, Collaborate isn’t cancelled. Instead, it’s now a fully virtual event. Here I’d like to give a massive KUDOS to the event organizers for their commitment to the event and the attendees. It certainly couldn’t have been easy to make the initial decision to proceed with Collaborate. Nor could it have been easy to completely undo and transform months and months of planning and logistics into a fully virtual conference in a matter of weeks.
I was very pleased to still be selected to speak at the (now) online conference. And, a big thanks to Pythian for their speaker program. It enables me to attend these gatherings, virtual or otherwise.
So, here I am, a few hours prior to my first big online presentation to an unknown number of people, and crossing my fingers that everything works as expected. This is basically how I feel before any “typical” presentation. The main difference? Well, the presentation won’t be quite the same. Interaction with the listening public is close to zero, and there is little practical opportunity for people to reach out to you with questions afterwards.
I know, I know… there’s always social media, and so on. However, it’s not the same, and you know it. There’s no immediate feedback from the attendees, and you can’t really tell if they find the content interesting or boring. Nor is it easy to tell whether you should slow down, or speed up. It definitely feels more impersonal.
This is my opinion from a “presenter” standpoint. As an “attendee,” there are two major issues for me: One is that it’s no longer a live in-person event, it’s awkward to ask your manager for time to attend it. The second big issue for me is the time zone. I’m in the Eastern time zone, and the event is based in Las Vegas, so sessions can go all the way from 4:30 PM to 10:30 PM EDT. This, on top of my regular eight-hour workday, is simply too much.
So, I might be able to attend a session or two and watch saved sessions at a later time. This takes me back to my previous point about lost face-to-face interactions with people.
Anyway, I’m really interested to see how this plays out. I really hope the event is a big success because, unfortunately, our current “situation” might last a long time. We need to prepare for that possibility.
Part 2: After…
And… the event is over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very satisfactory, which makes me a little sad. You see, Collaborate is one of the biggest Oracle events that I know of with a great many attendees, but only four showed up to my live presentation. Yes, the feedback was very good, and surely those people who attended were very interested in the topic I was speaking about. I thank each and every one of them.
A few days later, I checked my presentation statistics and there were a few views and downloads. But overall, the number is far below the 20 to 50 people that attended this same presentation at other on-site conferences.
Of course, I’m not a renowned speaker and the subject matter might not be of broader interest. However, the online experience is just “not the same,” and that takes a toll on the number of attendees.
Regardless, it was a good overall experience. I give my sincere congratulations to the organizers for the huge effort they clearly put into the entire event.
Hopefully, we can all meet in person soon and enjoy a truly magnificent Collaborate.