What Fish Can Teach Us About Great Virtual Events

In his Kenyon College commencement address David Foster Wallace recounts the story of two young fishes swimming along. They meet an older fish who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” The young fish swim on for a bit, and then one of them looks at the other and says, “What’s water?”

Most of us have been presenting and teaching face-to-face for so long we don’t think twice about the technology that enables us to succeed. As with the fishes and the water, this technology is such a stable and pervasive part of the communication environment … it’s invisible to us. Whiteboards, projectors, PA systems, large presentation screens, PowerPoint slides, sticky notes, easels and even laptops and tablets simply come with the territory. They’re such familiar presentation and communication tools in a face-to-face environment they tend to remain in the background unnoticed.

COVID has forced us to communicate and present in different ways.  To succeed we have to see technology for what it has always been – an essential variable in the equation.  Technology isn’t just “delivery mechanism” for content. We can’t pour what we’ve done in a face-to-face environment into a virtual one and expect success. What we’ve done in the face-to-face environment presupposed a different, although largely unacknowledged, set of technology tools. But if technology isn’t just a “delivery mechanism,” what is it? We need a different way of thinking about the role of technology in designing engaging virtual meetings, powerful virtual presentations and memorable virtual events. Stay tuned for thoughts and reflections from Align Virtual Solutions.

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