There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for COVID-19, but it will be impossible to ever fully go back to normal. Life after COVID-19 will be different, but that might be a good thing.
After over a month of social distancing regulations, we have collectively found a new normal — and that new normal is virtual. For companies and programs that rely on in-person events and programming, social distancing has required this sudden pivot to continue with business-as-usual, even if there’s nothing “usual” about it. While this shift has been devastating for major event companies — such as SXSW, whose cancellation was the first in the domino effect of other massive event cancellations — others have been taking advantage of the power of virtual technology for their programming including creative choices such as wineries offering virtual wine tastings.
Much of this programming has been free, and while that has resulted in a drop in ticket sales for event companies, it has also boosted the accessibility of other programming and access to speakers, celebrities, and more in a way that won’t be easily forgotten when social distancing regulations are lifted. People are looking for information and entertainment now more than ever, and the expansion of virtual programming and its value has made its mark, promising that life after COVID-19 looks to be mainly online for the time being.
We now know that virtual programming boosts accessibility
Using a virtual platform like Zoom enables companies and individuals to offer programming that more can attend. Whereas a large conference typically takes place in one convention center in one city, and requires travel to attend for non-locals, the growing array of online programming is available to anyone, anywhere and even beyond the United States.
Now, panels on virtual programming can feature individuals all in different zones, and a diverse audience pool of the same. This offers incredible opportunity: To be more focused and niche with programming efforts, thanks to the simplicity of anyone, anywhere logging on and sharing their insights. Originally, events were curated based on who was available, who was nearby, and who could travel. Now, programming can be curated with a refined specificity, now that they’re no longer limited by physical proximity.
Mentoring group Rocket Club is an example of this freedom. The mentorship program was originally offered as an after school, in-person program, but has since pivoted to a brand new operation: “Rocket Club Live” to continue to mentor young entrepreneurs virtually and help them start businesses at home, but with new programming. “We’re bringing on at least ten new kids per day, and amazingly, parents have let us know that their families plan their days around the sessions and watch together,” shared Alex Hodara, Founder of Rocket Club. Further, their move to virtual has enabled them to bring in big-name mentors to talk to the kids, such as a notable TV actor and a former presidential candidate.
We now see how interconnected we all are thanks to the Internet
Much of this programming is now not only virtual, but offered for free. Rocket Club made the decision to waive its normal monthly fees through the summer and offer totally free content to its entrepreneurs and their families. Young entrepreneurs can learn about topics including hydroponics and vertical farming, cryptocurrency, gravitational waves, and virtual reality.
Musicians are also moving online and offering their previously paid concert experiences for free. On May 2nd, Eva Longoria will be hosting a virtual Cinco de Mayo celebration, featuring free performances aired through Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, and iHeartLatino radio from Latin music stars J Balvin, Gloria, Luis Fonsi, Diane Guerrero, and more. The Grand Ole Opry converted their in-person performances to virtual in mid March, with musicians still taking the Grand Ole Opry stage, but now, hundreds can tune in online to enjoy their performances. Even theaters in London offered a special weekend of free performances via YouTube, so that anyone around the world could access world-class performances of productions like Phantom of the Opera in the iconic West End.
Additionally, musicians have taken to their own Instagrams to host solo performances, such as John Legend and John Mayer. More than anything, this flood of free and easily accessible virtual programming has shown us how accessible it always can be. Celebrities and musicians are always just the touch of a button away, and programming always had the capacity to be done virtually, we’re just seeing how now.
The widespread use of virtual programming during COVID-19’s social distancing guidelines has proved to us just how powerful it can be. That won’t be easily forgotten when it’s safe to return to in-person experiences and events, and it’s likely that life after COVID-19 is marked by more online programming than ever before, making it accessible to those that might be unable—either physically or financially—to attend these events in person.