After a last-minute invitation, I attended an online conference, pretty much for the first time ever. I can say that it was a really interesting experience, that actually did feel a bit like a real conference from back in the day.
You could log in to the lobby, there was a main stage, and various rooms with activities, of which one, was a 3 minute one-on-one video call session with another random participant.
With anticipation I clicked on the chat button. After setting up my microphone and camera, it commenced waiting for another participant…
The screen opened up, and it was an older fellow who I think appeared in one of the interviews earlier during the conference.
Not knowing what to say, I blindly proceeded to try and pitch my story, because that’s what you do if you have 3 minutes, right? Only 3 minutes! I had to be quick, the clock is ticking! I fumbled around with some words. Tried to explain two stories simultaneously.
It didn’t work.
He was quietly watching what was going on.
After 3 minutes, the system closed our conversation. Oof. That went really bad. Now let’s see if there is anyone else on this thing. I clicked again, my microphone and camera were already set up properly, and a guy appeared that proceeded to fill up the entire 3 minutes with his own uneventful yet razor sharp pitch, because, hey, that’s what you do when you have 3 minutes.
That also went really bad. But this time, I was receiver of this exact problem. I experienced both sides in under 10 minutes!
Next chat. A guy appeared that had some art hanging on the wall behind him, and I just asked about this art. He proceeded to explain everything about the painting, in kind of a moving and very sincere way. We didn’t talk about anything conference related. 3 minutes were over before we knew it.
Next chat. Here was a lady in a tiny house. This was cool! She had all her equipment inside, and I learned that this was an outhouse in the garden. Very interesting! We didn’t talk about anything conference related. 3 minutes were over before we knew it.
Then there was a guy who suggested that browsing search results on the Internet should be more like DJs giving you a taste of their music. A guy who wrote a book about how to train people for the upcoming XR revolution. And, a guy who was a veteran of these online conferences.
Every successive chat, I could feel my social skills grow back into what they perhaps once were before the pandemic. Like a rusty wagon being pushed out of a 19th century shed onto the road, creaking and squeaking.
I had not felt this for at least 2 years.