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If you were Mr. Spock, the logic-driven Vulcan with the pointy ears on Star Trek, you’d probably make some very logical conclusions about our society based on your observations.  Any on many of them, you’d be dead wrong.  Pro football games, like the meetings and events industry, provides a perfect example.

Watching an NFL game in person, even if you have a great seat, you can’t see the whole game very well.  If the play is on the other side of the field, you can’t see it at all. There are long gaps between plays where there is nothing to do.  You’re subject to rain, snow, cold and other lousy weather.  There are long lines for food and bathrooms.  There’s liable to be a drunken fool sitting next to you.  And you’ll probably brave an hour or more of traffic each way just to get there.

Watching a game at home is a completely different experience.  You’re in the comfort of your own living room sitting with your feet up on the coffee table, where it’s a balmy 70 degrees year round, eating whatever you want, using your own clean bathroom with no lines, and if you have DVR you can even pause the action live when you need to.  There’s no travel time.   You’re looking at a big screen tv, seeing the perfect camera angle selected for you by a professional director on site who chooses from over a dozen different cameras at his disposal.  Skilled commentators break down each play, using augmented reality to draw on the screen and help you see exactly what’s going on in between plays.

If we then told you that one of these experiences is free, whereas the other will likely set you back a few hundred dollars, which would you say is which?  If you’re Mr. Spock, and rely solely on logic, you would absolutely, positively, say that the in person experience would have to be free, because it is so vastly inferior, and the at home experience would have to cost hundreds of dollars because it provided a superior viewing experience in every way possible.

And you’d be dead wrong.

So why do people pay so much for watching a game under such relatively lousy conditions?

  • They want to be part of something.
  • They thrive on the sense of community with their fellow fans.
  • They want to be where the action is, and to experience it in person, with their own eyes and ears.

The same can be said of the meetings and events industry.  Why do people spend so much money and time travelling to a conference, when in many cases the content is available via live streaming, or recording post-event without having to leave their desks?  They want to be part of an experience and to connect with their fellow fans.

To be fair, plenty of people DO consume conference content via webcast, or on-demand, just as plenty of people DO watch football at home.  They simply don’t have the time, budget, or desire to make it there in person.  The point is that even with the availability of at-home, or at-office alternatives, the in-person experience still holds tremendous appeal, and is not going away.

So the next time your client or boss or key decision-maker is thinking about cutting your live event in favor of a virtual alternative, and you’re looking for a reason to defend it, tell him the story of Mr. Spock and pro football.

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