It’s that twilight time now. On the one hand, we can see the welcome cracks of light on the horizon, heralding the re-start of our industry and getting us back in-person, face-to-face. On the other hand, our days are still punctuated by endless Teams calls and Zoom webinars, reminding us of darker days when we wondered would it ever end?

Our sixteen months experimentation with virtual has imparted lessons that will turn our working worlds upside down. Some of our pre-pandemic practices and behaviours will never return and, in fairness, our people, planet and profit (the legendary triple bottom line) will be the better for it.

Will we ever again undertake an LA to NYC flight just to attend a 2 hour meeting, check in to a hotel, eat dinner and fly home again? Probably not. This type of business trip is unlikely to pass the scrutiny of your CFO or, indeed, your significant other! We know we can achieve the same outcomes on a 30 min Zoom call so why tax your body with such unnecessary travel, not to mention the impact on the planet and on company profits?

But we also know the limitations of virtual, particularly when they’ve tried to replicate the in-person events that’re the life blood of our industry – the IMEXs, SITE Classics, IRF Invitationals, FICP annuals, our own DMC Network client event.

Yes, there has been radical progress and we’re now way beyond the static broadcasts of the early days of Covid. New platforms and enhanced functionalities have greatly improved the virtual experience, enabling us to meet and connect in ways that, without the technology, simply wouldn’t have been possible.

But when we attend a virtual event how many of us really participate fully? Can we truly resist having a sneaky look at email? Or even Netflix? How many of us hide behind our avatars, on mute, multi-tasking. Engagement? I’m not so sure. Most of us, decent and upstanding in-person, are loose and promiscuous on-line. We don’t commit and the format facilitates this.

So let’s take all the positive and the good we can from virtual and shape our new work practices around a clever use of the great technology we now have. But let’s not kid ourselves that it can ever, even vaguely, replicate or replace face-to-face.

And those cracks of light on the horizon? As Leonard Cohen famously said “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in!” Bring on the light.