Think Piece: Will We Ever Have In-Person Events Again?

Two years into the Pandemic, and we’re all longing for things to go back to normal. Attending large events with no masks or social distancing… That kind of normal—not the so-called “new” normal. Face-to-face interactions have been the backbone of the events industry for as long as we can remember, and COVID-19 has been its biggest adversary. Events shifted from being in-person to virtual, but one can only do so many virtual events before growing sick of it, right? But then in-person events in a COVID-19 world are a risk many are not willing to take. Will we ever return to the glory days pre-COVID or is virtual here to stay?

There’s no denying the impact the Pandemic has had on events. In-person events postponed everywhere left the industry at a complete standstill. On top of that, our attitude about events changed radically. We went from feeling comfortable in confined spaces with thousands of people to feeling the complete opposite. We used to have the time of our lives at huge parties, watching our favourite artists live in concert and going to jam-packed anime conventions. We loved in-person events for the novel experiences they brought us. But nowadays, we can’t meet up without feeling anxious about COVID.


Image courtesy of EDM Identity.

Despite the odds working against their favour, event organisers were able to get creative in hosting in-person events whilst prioritising everyone’s wellbeing. From socially distanced drive-in concerts to assigned boxes and plastic bubbles, the industry has been innovative in these troubling times. But let’s be honest, what is the point of holding in-person events when it’s not going to be the same as before? Why bother going to events when we can just stay at home where we’re safer? Should we just accept how things are?

Perhaps we should be waiting for vaccination. Once we’re all vaccinated, maybe we’d feel more at ease and less anxious about meeting up with people. After all, humans are social animals who love physical interactions. But, do the perks of meeting up outweigh the costs? Whether you’re a “Moderna Mami” or “Pfizer Princess”, the vaccine only reduces the symptoms of the virus and that does not make you invincible. Let’s say our favourite musician was holding a socially distanced concert. Could you blame yourself or others for wanting to go? Do non-goers have the right to condemn the goers? It’s just a concert, right? Besides, attendees will all still be practising social distancing. How do we draw the line between what’s appropriate and inappropriate when attending in-person events during a global pandemic?


Image courtesy of BBC.

Virtual events quickly became the solution to COVID. But, if you’re a social butterfly who loves large gatherings, virtual events are a snoozefest. For introverts, on the other hand, virtual events are their playground! Two years into COVID and we’ve been able to connect with more people from different time zones and locations using Zoom and the Internet in general. Virtual races, virtual book clubs, virtual fashion shows, virtual concerts, virtual award shows—there has been a virtual event for everyone! Just like High School Musical, we’re all in this together. But even High School Musical didn’t last forever. Even if the industry tries to compensate for our desire for social interaction through hosting virtual events, is it enough to satisfy our need for tangible personal connections? If the point of virtual events is to sustain social interactions while being mindful of spreading COVID, why do many of us still favour physical meet-ups despite the risks?


Perhaps now is the time for us to reassess how we make genuine connections—and whether it’s possible to make them virtually. But do we still have the luxury of choice? Maybe there is no way of knowing when we’ll be able to attend in-person events like we used to. Rather than drown ourselves in the endless possibilities of the future, let’s start from what we do know: we know that in-person and virtual events are held all around the world and they both have pros and cons; we know that the choice of events (in-person or virtual) is entirely up to us. So, we ought to choose wisely—because it’s guaranteed to make all the difference.


Written by Vania.
Featured image courtesy of BBC.

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