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Hints of What Post-Pandemic Conferences Could Look Like

Missing life on the conference circuit? A review of a major Microsoft event that went forward during the pandemic could spell out what to expect in the coming months.

Should online events become a post-pandemic mainstay, Microsoft’s Build 2020 conference could offer some hints for advisors wondering what some of their future big virtual events might look like. The annual conference, meant for engineers and web developers, has been held for eight years and usually hosts around 5,000 in-person guests. This year though, it was missing its usual live in-house audience and was reliant on streaming technology, but the tech presentations were “arguably the first truly big tech company event” since the coronavirus pandemic started, reported TechCrunch.

“The curse of the live demo is gone,” the publication noted, while “plane noises and lawnmowers were a regular reminder that things are just going to be weird for a while.” Two hosts, Seth Juarez and Dona Sarkar, stood a socially distant length apart from each other, trading the jokes and small talk that come with showrunning.

Overall, the event's pros outweighed its cons, according to the report. Streamed online conversations followed presentations. A presumably prerecorded video from CEO Satya Nadella looked polished but lacked “the pomp of previous years’ event[s].”

The event was exceptionally accessible. Registration was free, and the official chat “was full of excited developers and observers” attending the conference for the first time. 

“I suspect many will return to the in-person event,” noted TechCrunch reporter Brian Heater in his assessment of the conference, “but hopefully the added accessibility of the virtual element will live on beyond the threat of COVID-19.”

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