E179 – Virtual Conferences & 2021 Predictions

2020 is the year of online. Online podcasts and online or virtual conferences have been big this year. Podcasting has been growing but the number of people that started them as well as the number of new mini conferences or conferences that went virtual is huge.

For those that never could get away from work or get budget approval hopefully they have caught a ton of sessions and great speakers this year. We also hope you realize that the year isn’t over and there are more good conferences and talks ahead.

Here are two FREE events that Dave is talking at in the coming weeks:

In Person Conference Prediction

Our predictions since we usually get some correct:

When do we think large (100+ of people) size digital marketing type conferences will again happen in the United States?

As far as the answers:

  • Matt: Oct/Nov of 2021 is what he is guessing but also his guess is for the larger conferences of 1000 or many 100s of people.
  • Dave: sticking with the idea around 100, 200, or 500 people – still decent size conference. Dave is looking for some “normal” to happen in Summer (July-ish) timeframe.

Hopefully Dave is correct but we shall see.

Pros of Virtual Conferences

  • Lots of conferences have gone free this year.
  • There is no travel cost, hotel costs, eating out costs and time away from the office.
  • Are becoming more engaging – some virtual conferences are working hard to make networking better but also to make the talks more engaging and closer to being “there”.
  • Access to great speakers and content no matter where you are in the world.
  • You can multitask – you might miss some tips but catching at least 25% of the great nuggets is still better than missing 100%.

Cons of Virtual Conferences

  • No swag for coworkers, kids, family or office.
  • No T-shirts or sweatshirts
  • Meeting new people, prospects, clients, friends is tougher virtual
  • Meetings with clients or friends where you can get away and have an in person meeting/catch up.
  • Are people paying attention due to work, kids, and other distractions calling for your time?

Do you think in 2021 and into 2022 virtual conferences will continue? Will burnout from video meetings burn people out in the future or has it already? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Full Transcript

Matt Siltala: [00:00:00] Welcome to another exciting episode of the business of digital podcast, featuring your host, Matt scintilla and Dave roar. Hey guys, excited to have you join us on another one of these business of digital podcast episodes. I’m grateful that, you know, I was thinking about this, Dave, I’m grateful that we’ve been able to do.

And I don’t know whether, whether it’s, uh, sorry. My, my thoughts are all over the place right now, but. I don’t know, it’s because of, uh, you know, the fact that we talked about this is going to be kind of a 20, 20, uh, looking over type episode, but like, I’ve been very grateful. We’ve been able to do, um, over three years of these, if you can believe it just that we’ve had this, uh, podcast going on for so long, but anyway,

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:46] how’s it going?

I have the podcast because we can’t travel this year. So people that do podcasts in person. Um, that are not family are probably at a disadvantage.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:58] Very true, very true. [00:01:00] But, um, just getting into, you know, like we were chatting and w as we always do, it’s good to just get in and record. Cause we tend to chat, not recording about all the stuff we should be recording, but, uh, we’re talking about virtual conferences and just 2020 in general and, and then beyond, and, and what’s in the future.

And so, um, just give us your, your thoughts on this and, uh, where we go from here. First

Dave Rohrer: [00:01:24] let’s make predictions because we all, everyone hates predictions and everyone sucks at them. Um, and that’s the time of year where everyone makes predictions. When do you think the first we’ll just stick to marketing?

Digital marketing conference will happen in person with over a hundred people in 2021. So unless you think it will be later, but

Matt Siltala: [00:01:49] no. No. Um,

Dave Rohrer: [00:01:50] when do you, when do you predict the first one? In the us also to add that other qualifier digital marketing focused will happen.

[00:02:00] Matt Siltala: [00:02:00] I’ll give you my answer on this one, because with everything I’ve been reading, um, they’re saying the general public should be getting vaccines rolled out and around the end of April.

So we’re looking at April, may, June, July, probably. Um, the reason I, I say what I’m about to say is, cause I don’t see people feeling safe until like everyone, and you’ve got a lot of people that aren’t going to take the. Vaccine, obviously, because of whatever reasons or their fear, it’s not safe, but let’s say that we let all that go smooth and the rates are going down and everything happens the way it should.

Um, throughout the summer, I think that as far as like the ones in our circles, the next big one, I think could be a pub con Vegas, honestly.

Dave Rohrer: [00:02:42] So you’re saying next October, November,

Matt Siltala: [00:02:46] December the next big one. And I know you said that you gave the, the number a hundred. I think there’s already some that are, that are smaller, that are starting to go on already, you know, social distancing and that, that kind of stuff, but [00:03:00] like, Um, I’m thinking more, a little bit bigger, large scale ones like that.

We’re used to speaking at.

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:05] So over a thousand, you’re saying, or more than a couple hundred,

Matt Siltala: [00:03:08] more than a couple hundred. I think it would probably be around, you know, October, November.

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:15] I was going to say probably summer

Matt Siltala: [00:03:17] really interesting.

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:20] All right. And

Matt Siltala: [00:03:21] I hope I hope I’m right or I’m wrong. And you’re right

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:25] for my own little pop-up conference.

I still haven’t even started planning for 2021. Cause I don’t know what I’m doing. And yes, we are talking about virtual conferences. Eventually.

Matt Siltala: [00:03:37] I still want that pop-up conference to come here to Phoenix. You know, you missed your, your, your March visit to shear

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:44] the, uh, I keep looking at the places I wanted to hit this year and pushing them to next year and then trying to figure out how to make it work.

Matt Siltala: [00:03:54] Yeah.

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:55] But I’m also looking at, I wasn’t gonna, I was gonna push my Chicago from [00:04:00] February to April or March or April or may, but do I really want to start planning it? How much time do I have this idea? None.

Matt Siltala: [00:04:10] The only thing that makes me nervous. And I’ll tell you this, like, just with. These vaccines coming out and being as effective, the ZR, there’s only the only thing that worries me is, is, you know, some of the reports that I’ve read is that it’s only kept it away for like three months or whatever it is.

And, and so it’s like, you know, that, that worries me. And then also there’s reports, I’ve read where this may be like a flu shot thing that it’s not going away in, that you just have to get something like this. Yearly. And if that’s fine that, you know, we’re, we’ll start to get back to normal, but it also makes me wonder how, how is that, or how has this year changed?

People’s mindsets of, you know, am I going to want to go and be in person again? I’ll just give you a little bit [00:05:00] of a, an insight. So we’ve done virtual school here with my boys, my daughter, she’s in college. She’s doing, they basically have everything online as well. And I’ll tell you, this has been the first like.

Summer fall, whatever you want to call it, where we have had no colds, no flus, no nothing that, that these guys have brought or picked up. Usually like Ian, you know, my, my eighth grader, he’s like the corporate, uh, he’s the culprit of bringing anything back to us that about kills us. And so, um, that’s been nice.

And so I wonder like, How much of that stuff’s going to play and are people gonna like, still like, well, I don’t want to take the chance of getting it or I’m not gonna get the vaccine or I’m not, you know what I mean? Like there’s just so many like, factors that it’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen.

I want more,

Dave Rohrer: [00:05:52] I’m sticking to, I won’t say ginormous, but at least a few hundred. I’m sticking to summer [00:06:00] summertime.

Matt Siltala: [00:06:00] I hope you’re. I hope you’re right. I will, dude. I want to start traveling again. I want you to come here for spring training again. I want us to hang out. I want all that again. I was thinking about this the other day and I’m sorry, this is probably not the direction of the episode that we were, we were thinking about, but, uh, uh, we’ll get back on track here in a second, but I was just thinking about how badly I wanted to, uh, Travel again.

And I was thinking, you know, I would just be happy with being able to go and drive to one of my favorite local Mexican restaurants and eat there without having to worry about picking something up at this point. I mean, forget about traveling to Norway or Amsterdam or wherever, you know, just being able to go and eat at a place without having to worry about it, you know?

Dave Rohrer: [00:06:47] Well, and we’ll use that to segue into the upside of virtual.

Matt Siltala: [00:06:52] Yes.

Dave Rohrer: [00:06:53] Ah, see, we would get there eventually. We do the, uh, I think there’s good and [00:07:00] bad. And we’ll start with the good. You still have your H H raise your hand thing on it’s driving me.

Matt Siltala: [00:07:07] Oh,

Dave Rohrer: [00:07:07] in our little thing. There’s a little tool. It’s completely segwayed again.

Matt Siltala: [00:07:13] Raise your hand

Dave Rohrer: [00:07:14] what mine’s on too. Yeah, there, now it should be off.

Matt Siltala: [00:07:18] I don’t know. It.

Dave Rohrer: [00:07:20] We literally never used that feature, which is funny because in the next episode, you’re going to hear me talk about tools and how to dig into it, which will be out next week. Um, so you might want to check that one out, but yeah, this is like a weird feature that we just never use.

Um, but I, that, that is the upside of virtual for me at least is, you know, if people have one, don’t have a job. Which a lot of people don’t have, there is so much free training, free conferences going on right now, or virtual or

Matt Siltala: [00:07:52] they’re so affordable. Like you’re getting the same kind of content that normally you’d have to pay a thousand, 1200 bucks for, for like [00:08:00] literally a hundred or 200

Dave Rohrer: [00:08:01] bucks.

And that’s not including the time off from work. The travel, the food, the airfare, um, driving, parking, you know, all of that stuff. Well, yeah, we’ll get to their Crohn’s in a second. I’m trying to focus on the pros.

Matt Siltala: [00:08:15] Okay.

Dave Rohrer: [00:08:16] Um, but you still, you know, and there are better, I think, tools now where I’ve seen some that have interacted a little bit more interaction or the they’re trying to set it up so that it’s not just.

You know, uh, a recorded pitch or recorded talk or, you know, trying to make it more interactive, trying to do, use the tools that are given to you from these various virtual systems, uh, to just, you know, open it up and make it so that you can do networking. I literally just saw someone today ask about, you know, a system or solution that would let people at a conference.

Or at a virtual conference be able [00:09:00] to mingle. And they were like, I’ve seen one where there’s like 10 or 15 people, but what about a hundred? Is there a solution? Has anyone seen something that they liked, which I think is cool trying to, you know, no, I don’t want this to have VR or something, but,

Matt Siltala: [00:09:14] well, I did see some kind of where, where they, um, allowed you to go and kind of do a, not VR, but kind of go and do a virtual tour of like, what would be.

What we would consider an exhibit booth. I did see some technology for that I thought was kind of neat. Um, you know, I tried to a lot of times, unless there’s a specific company that I want to talk to about a tool or about a product or something that I need, I typically try to avoid those areas to not be grabbed.

But I thought that that was an interesting feature for those that

Dave Rohrer: [00:09:46] liked that. Well, how do you get the swag now? I can’t, I can’t get the swag.

Matt Siltala: [00:09:51] It’s gotta be more positive for those companies.

Dave Rohrer: [00:09:56] I always used to, and I know I’ve talked about this before, but I had someone [00:10:00] in it that I was always trying to butter up and be nice to cause.

So they would help us in a pinch. And before I would go to pub con or before I’d go to SES or some conference, I’d be like, Hey, here’s a list of the vendors and I’d send it to them. Is there any swag or types of swag? You know, do you just want t-shirts do you want, you know, pens chotchkies what type of stuff would you want?

And is there any brands that you specifically want, you know, stuff from, and they’d be like, Oh, just, you know, t-shirt size large t-shirt size, medium, extra, large, whatever, um, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All right. Cool. And I try to like grab some things, and that was always for me, the upside of going to the family members.

Matt Siltala: [00:10:42] And that’s a bummer too, because it got me thinking about, we haven’t been able to hand out any. Shirts or stickers podcasts lately. Yeah. I only

Dave Rohrer: [00:10:49] have lots of stickers.

Matt Siltala: [00:10:52] Well, I was, it was funny cause I was, I saw a cheat or a cheat, a tweet from a mutual friend of ours. Uh, Chuck Reynolds talking [00:11:00] about how he had tons of badges and buy socks.

Dave Rohrer: [00:11:03] And it made

Matt Siltala: [00:11:03] me think of, uh, you know, a lot of the swag I’ve gotten him and, uh, I have an old best of the web sweater. Can you believe that? A, B O T w it was like a, or not a sweater as a hoodie. I have one 13 years ago.

Dave Rohrer: [00:11:17] I got that one in 2007.

Matt Siltala: [00:11:19] The blue one.

Dave Rohrer: [00:11:20] No, I have a special edition black one. I got it. No, I got it.

And yeah, it was probably 2007.

Matt Siltala: [00:11:29] I think mine was like around like that 2007 or eight.

Dave Rohrer: [00:11:32] It’s one of the very few hoodies I have. That’s a swag.

Matt Siltala: [00:11:35] Yeah, Salem. Same with me. One of the ones I kept too. But anyway,

Dave Rohrer: [00:11:40] well, and that, for me, that, you know, I guess we’re already talking about the cons of virtual and I think that’s one of them is just the, you don’t get to have the one-on-one conversations with people, with prospects, with clients, with vendors,

Matt Siltala: [00:11:55] with friends.


Dave Rohrer: [00:11:56] you

Matt Siltala: [00:11:57] try those, a new taco places or pizza places? [00:12:00] Correct.

Dave Rohrer: [00:12:00] Um, or, or meet new friends or new new people as easily. And I think for me, that is probably the biggest con of the virtual.

Matt Siltala: [00:12:09] Absolutely.

Dave Rohrer: [00:12:10] Um, and I think the other one is probably, um, when you’re at home and you’re at the conference and someone schedules a meeting, I seem to see people do both.

So, are you really paying attention now to the conference and that session? Or are you paying attention to your meeting or do you not attend that session? Yeah. Or are you in the session and, but you’re actually working, so it’s really just background noise and you’re not really paying attention. All good.

I think for me as a speaker who was putting time into my presentation, that is my biggest fear is. You know, how many webinars do you sign up for? Probably not nearly as many as me, [00:13:00] but I used to sign up for one a week, maybe two, because I was like, Oh, that’s interesting. Guess how many I went to not, yeah.

And then they’d email me the, the video afterwards. I wouldn’t watch it either. Cause I don’t have 30 minutes. Yeah. Um, or 45 minutes or, you know, maybe I might watch it, but I’ll see. You know, fast forward the first five minutes, get to something, watch a little bit of it, and then I’m done. So it’s not, I think there’s the, for me, that’s pros and cons.

I think there’s an upside. And I think we’re, I think we’re still going to see them going forward. I mean, we’ve had webinars for how many years now? Oh yeah. The virtual conferences and excuse me, I couldn’t get the mute button in time. Um, and I say all of that because. Pubcon just came out this past week with their small business in e-commerce cyber week where I am going to be talking about, guess what, what tired of writing audio and video content creation is the answer.

[00:14:00] Matt Siltala: [00:14:00] Boom. Well, you know, I’m glad that you brought that up because that’s something I was just going to say, like, I, I think what I see going forward is a lot of these it’s companies. Like Pubcon just as the example, they’re going to have a, a hybrid. I think they’re going to do yeah. More conferences. They’re going to have more opportunities to do these little smaller virtual conferences in between these bigger ones.

Now, will they continue to have both a Vegas and a Florida one? I don’t know, but I think that in between and keeping the brand alive and keep people engaged and, and, and, uh, Keeping them relevant. I think it’s a great idea for, for a great opportunity, if you will. You know what I mean?

Dave Rohrer: [00:14:43] Yup. And then I saw someone was doing, uh, I forget who, uh, Oh, Will’s doing something with, uh, the Minnesota group, uh, MN search something.

So he’s got wine. I know SEJ has got something coming [00:15:00] up soon. That I just saw Keith Good promoting it. I saw someone else promoting it the other day. Peter’s

Matt Siltala: [00:15:07] the virtual stuff now.

Dave Rohrer: [00:15:08] And I’m doing that in a couple of weeks where I’ll be talking about, uh, what master tools. Very cool. And that’s also free even to non-members so, yeah.

And it’s, it’s on zoom. Um, and just what’s today’s date. So just a week or so ago, Joe Martinez did one at SEM, PDX, where he talked about YouTube ad. So I think that’s the other thing is that there’s, there’s always been webinars and there’s always been like here and there, like. You know, SEMrush has done a bunch of stuff and I know some other people have done it, but it will be like an afternoon or a couple hours of some sort of training or sessions.

I think there’ll be more of it. But it’ll be curious to see if I’m right or wrong about next June or if you’re right. What happens after people can travel? Will it diminish, [00:16:00] um, After the last couple of weeks, I I’ve taken on some new clients and stuff. I’ve been in zoom a lot. I’ve been in Google Hangouts a lot.

Um, but four, I used to have one, maybe two meetings a week, maybe three with standing meetings and stuff coming up. I’m been on zoom and video conferences. Now two, three hours a day for the last two weeks. The last thing I want to do is go and sit on another zoom call for a conference. Yeah. And I’ve only been doing it for two weeks.

I can’t imagine these other people, you know, that are all day long and internal meetings for six hours a day, and then trying to, you know, eat lunch and do stuff. I wonder if that burnout, even if you can add all of the other stuff, come next year, people are just going to get burned out from it. I don’t know.

I don’t know the answer to that.

Matt Siltala: [00:16:54] No, I think you’re right. Absolutely. It’s going to be, it’s really, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. And [00:17:00] so, um, you know, I personally, I just, I, like I told you, I hope that things get more back to normal. I wonder how many, I wonder though, how long it’s going to take people.

Like, even if there’s a vaccine and there’s not a risk anymore, I wonder how long it’s going to take people to just like, feel like they can venture out again, like me for one, I can’t wait to. Like I’ve, I’ve already the second that I feel like comfortable. I can’t, I’m telling you right now, like I’ve already, I’m already booking my trip to Hawaii.

Um, as it’s been, I know you laugh, but I go there a lot. I miss the islands and, um, you know, I’ve, I’ve told the family, I’m like, we’re, we’re doing eight days. We’re doing four in Maui and four on the big Island. And you know, I can’t wait for that to happen, but I’m not sure. You know, so, so I’m all for your predictions.

Like the sooner that we could get to normal, the better. So I hope I’m wrong in this case,

Dave Rohrer: [00:17:55] but like I said, for those that either have had their budget slashed [00:18:00] or unemployed, or trying to transition to a new industry job, not just marketing, but anywhere. I imagine all trade shows and a lot of other ones in industries that I’ve signed up for pitched before, have all gone virtual.

So the ability to attend a lots of conferences and do lots of training or be educated, I think is even easier because most of them have reduced their prices. Like we talked about, um, the cost of travel, the opportunity costs of missing work. If you’re a consultant of not getting paid, I think you could easily attend a conference a month right now.

Matt Siltala: [00:18:38] Well, that, that’s the other thing that I was going to mention. Like, I think it’s been amazing to watch. You know, whether it’s a conference organizer or people in general pulled together and realize that, Hey, this has been a trying time for a lot of people like, well, while there may be a lot of people that are fortunate or that have been blessed during this to not have been unemployed or lose anything there’s many of our [00:19:00] colleagues and people that have been.

And so, uh, that have been impacted drastically. And so it’s amazing to see, you know, these places step up and offer conferences that can help them. And. Networking and whatnot that they can attend for free, learn for free, start something new. Um, that’s the one thing that I will say, like, there’s been a lot of ugly and negativity over the last year and it continues into the end of this year and what’s going on with the whole presidential election and stuff.

But like, the thing that I want to look for is the silver lining, always and things. And, and that’s kind of what I’ve seen this year is people banding together and trying to help out, trying to give. No content for free trying to give, you know, these V or make it more affordable, do what they can to survive themselves, but also help one another.

If that makes

Dave Rohrer: [00:19:46] sense. No, it does.

Matt Siltala: [00:19:49] But those are my thoughts.

Dave Rohrer: [00:19:51] Nope. That, yeah, I think it’ll be interesting to see how long virtual conferences go, where [00:20:00] they, where they take them and what people do with them. And I mean, you know, even a small business. Could easily hold a conference for their clients now. And it might be a little bit more acceptable and easier to pull off, which I wonder how many, if, if there is, and I’d be curious if, if someone has taken that this year to go, you know what, we’ve never had a conference we can get in front of our clients and prospects this way.

That’d be interesting to see if someone’s actually done that, um, or plan

Matt Siltala: [00:20:29] yeah. For reals, but now not to, not to get off on a tangent. I know we’re about to wrap this up, but something else that had gotten me thinking about it, Other things that I wonder what will be impacted is, you know, I think about, uh, my daughter, that’s going to ASU, she’s a junior at ASU and basically hasn’t stepped foot in a campus for about a year now.

And, um, and it’s still paying the same amount and it makes me wonder, like, I’ve heard stories about how people are still being told. They have to pay [00:21:00] for their dorms. They have to pay for their parking. They have to pay for all these things. And they’re not even using that kind of stuff. So it makes me wonder, like, in one sense, like how that’s going to be impacted or if, you know, virtual learning is going to change on that or, or what I see for the better, like with even my, my kids and, you know, there’s some been, been some hybrid learning where some, and then it, you know, in-person some have been online, they’ve all been doing online, but it just makes you wonder, like now that you know, that it can be done and, you know, I dunno, like, I, I just think things, things are going to change some maybe for the better.

I hope.

Dave Rohrer: [00:21:36] I think it goes back to the pros and cons the in-person learning versus online learning. I don’t think it’s the same, at least I don’t, I don’t think so. I’m sure there’s people that will side with one way or the other. I just don’t think it’s the same. And I don’t think for students. And also every

Matt Siltala: [00:21:53] student learns different too.

It may not be better.

Dave Rohrer: [00:21:56] Yeah. I think for some people it’s better than I think for some people it’s not. Absolutely. We’ll [00:22:00] see

Matt Siltala: [00:22:01] time will

Dave Rohrer: [00:22:01] tell. Huh? Yep.

Matt Siltala: [00:22:04] Any final thoughts on this or Nope. Want to wrap it up?

Dave Rohrer: [00:22:07] Wrap it up.

Matt Siltala: [00:22:08] Awesome. Well, we do appreciate you guys letting David, I just a rant to you about virtual conferences and our predictions for.

2021. And

Dave Rohrer: [00:22:18] those will be the only predictions we make. We usually make one. I think this was, this was a good one to make.

Matt Siltala: [00:22:24] Exactly so good, good idea on this topic. I do appreciate everybody joining us. And so for Dave roar with Merseyside metrics, I met Sophia with avalanche media. You guys, please make sure to go and check us out on, you know, any one of, you know, whatever player you like, Spotify, iTunes, uh, Google, just go and check us out, give us a five-star rating and it helps us continue to bring these to you.

So. Thanks all. And, uh, we’ll see you on the next one. Bye.

Dave Rohrer: [00:22:49] Thanks.