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COVID-19 has introduced an entire new way of life in 2020. This “new normal” includes social distancing, online schooling, half capacity restaurants, and face masks. But what is going to be the “new normal” when it comes to large conferences or expos? How long will those standards last? Some tech giants are trying to move forward with online conferences, while others are choosing to delay or cancel their events.
Apple has announced that the popular Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will be held via the internet this year. This is a very anticipated yearly event. Typically, the WWDC is full of riveting presentations and reveals that elicit sounds of enthusiasm from the sizeable audience. How will the dynamic change when there is no one present to express their approval in real time? Will Apple bring in a few attendees to try to replicate that energy? Regardless, the company will have to make a variety of changes to adapt to the socially distanced version of their conference. They will have to take into consideration the likelihood that listeners could join at any moment of a presentation, get bored, and move on in less than a minute. Presenters also have to remember that online speeches require very different techniques than speeches given in packed auditoriums. No pausing for applause or laughs, no walking around a stage or interacting directly with the audience, and no ability to sense how your listeners are feeling.
Microsoft’s X-Box made a digital announcement in May for its new gaming series that did not go over well with fans, illustrating the difficulty of this transition to virtual events. Fans took to social media to express their disappointment regarding the way the series was announced, warranting a response from a general manager apologizing for not meeting expectations.
On the other hand, Sony had major success with their PlayStation event on June 11. The presentation began with a quick introduction from the CEO that lasted less than a minute, and then moved on to a continuous stream of game trailers interspersed with engaging animations and music. According to an article from CNET, analysts have said writers and presenters will have to shift towards a TV-like format, with short episodes that constantly re-engage the audience members.
Although Apple, Microsoft, and Sony have all continued to hold events online, other companies like Facebook and Google have decided to delay and cancel their events. Apple is known for their sophisticated and inspiring seminars, so speculation is they will be able to adapt just fine. If Apple does pull off the WWDC, they will be included on the list of companies paving the way for big tech conferences for the next few years.
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