Tuesday, May 12, 2020

When will we attend physical conferences again?

By Steve Endow

I thought I was being prudent and organized in January 2020 when I booked my flight and hotel for the Directions NA conference to be held in Orlando in June 2020.  I'm used to hotels quickly filling up for Dynamics conferences, so I thought I'd reserve my room early and get a good price on my flight.  I also made sure to get the "Super Early Bird" registration rate for Directions NA.  I was all set!

But of course, things changed drastically by March, and physical conferences were all cancelled or rescheduled.  Microsoft has cancelled all physical events through July 2021.  Many companies put a hold on all business travel.

Directions NA was rescheduled for December 1-4, 2020.  My Super Early Bird registration applied to the new conference date.  I was able to cancel my hotel reservation.  The airline will not give me a refund if I cancel my flight, so I'm going to try to reschedule it to December.  So I assumed that I would be going to Directions NA in December.

This week I looked at the dates for Community Summit North America.  October 6-9, 2020, in Nashville.

Hmmm.  October 2020?  I guess that might be possible.

What about Community Summit Australia?  August 19-21, 2020, in Melbourne.

August 2020?  3 months from now?  My understanding is that Australia is not allowing non-resident international travelers into the country, and even those who are allowed to fly to Australia must self-isolate for 14 days.  Aside from international attendees, there are also travel restrictions within Australia.

Not looking good for an August conference in Australia.

So how should I plan for conferences in 2020?  I don't know.  Is August way too early?  Is October viable?  Is December a comfortable month for a physical conference?  Should I start making travel plans?  Will people show up to physical conferences in in October?  Will they show up in December?

I didn't know, so I turned to Twitter.  And it's not looking good for physical conferences in 2020.

Maybe in 2021?

I thought there would be more votes for 2020, with more people gradually opting for October and December.  But if there is any validity to this informal poll, it seems that most people are not comfortable travelling to a conference in 2020.

Given these results, I'm less confident in Summit North America occurring in October, and am also now uncertain about Directions NA in December.  Will anyone show up?

Maybe there will be some medical breakthrough and we hear of good news in the next 4 to 6 months--which seems unlikely.  Or maybe things don't improve or COVID cases continue to increase over the next several months.  We just don't know, and that uncertainty makes it very difficult for attendees to want to attend conferences.  And the uncertainty and lack of attendee interest makes it pretty difficult to organize a physical conference.

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He works with Dynamics 365 Business Central, Power Automate, Power Apps, Azure, Dynamics GP, SQL Server, and .NET

You can also find him on Twitter and YouTube

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