Actually attending an event...
1. I arrive at office, switch on my PC, watch as Outlook downloads hundreds of mails, patiently wait as the spam filter does its job, then begin reading. Today, an invitation to meet the Asia-Pacific head of a well known IT company, the session beginning in less than an hour... on the other side of town!
2. I arrive only 20 minutes late, and hope no-one will notice me sneaking in. I take a seat in the back. Gosh, the sound system is terrible-can hardly hear a thing, and have to strain to see what's displayed on the screen. During a short recess, I find my way to an empty seat towards the front.
3. Question time. Moving to the front turned out to be a good idea, because I was actually able to get a few in. Once the event was done, we adjourned to the banquet hall where we got a few one-on-one sessions with company representatives. This informal setting is what I usually look forward to, because it's more like an interview, with two-way conversation rather than a one-sided lecture.
4. Before I left to get back to the office, I met up with a few peers. Press events are quite the social gathering, and I exchange cards with some other journalists. It never hurts to make yourself known, as we sometimes help each other out with tips and ideas. Once I'm done, I file a report for the event back in office. Standard procedure, this.
...And watching the Webcast
1. After I returned from the press conference, I got news of a Microsoft event. There was no way I could reach the event in time, but I wasn't too concerned. Thanks to Microsoft's Webcasts, I knew I wouldn't miss much of the event. I can always watch the Webcast a few days later!
2. Vive le broadband! I'm registered for access to Webcasts, so I just log in, wait for it to buffer, and watch the recording. No worry about seating, and about not being able to see the screen or hear the speakers. I can decide on the volume for the audio, and I can resize the screen to suit my liking.
3. I can rewind, pause, and basically choose how I get my dose of the event. What I cannot do, however, is interact. Perhaps in the near future all events will be live Webcasts, with the ability to have a Webcam and be virtually present, asking questions. For now, it's pretty one-sided. At least I get to hear the speaker first-hand. Plus I can listen to responses to questions, making up somewhat for the lack of interaction.
4. There's a stark contrast with the Old Way. I'm hungry, and I have to fend for my own food. Secondly, the experience seems fake-I haven't actually met anyone. The advantage is that instead of writing a report, I transfer the downloaded Webcast to a file server and send off a quick e-mail informing my colleagues about its existence.
And The Winner Is...
Straight-up, you will have to agree that nothing beats human-human interaction. No video recording will ever replace the experience of actually being there. However, instead of treating this as a competition between the Old Way and the Tech Way, I think the Tech Way is sort of an enhancement, or even a back-up plan, for the Old Way. We'd all much rather attend every event that happens out there, but things like money, physics, and the laws of space-time prevent it from happening. Thanks to the Tech Way, at least we don't have to completely miss out on everything. The verdict is that the Old Way, combined with the Tech Way is the best solution we've ever had. No winners here!