After several major tech brands including Amazon, Sony, LG Electronics and Intel have withdrawn from Mobile World Congress because of public health risks, GSMA made the decision to cancel the conference this year. 

Beyond this very sensitive issue, broader concerns have also been recently raised about the format of the conferences and their impact on the planet, with the thousands of people travelling to attend an event that may only last a few days. The UN Climate Change conference (COP 26), taking place in the UK in November, is at the core of the debate. Why? Some have suggested it should be run virtually to limit carbon footprints and to be more consistent with the overall theme.

So, should the future of conference be virtual for ecological, safety and economic reasons? Key modern video communications platforms like Zoom, have dramatically changed the way people communicate. People can easily connect from anywhere, share a presentation and interact in real time. So could these functionalities be easily applied to conference management?

It should work from a tech perspective. But a conference is not only about what’s happening on stage. Are brands and sponsors ready to give up the brand experience at their booths? Are people willing to replace in person networking with online connections?

The future of conferences probably lies somewhere in the middle in an hybrid approach, where online video platforms amplify in person connections and experiences, and make them last.