I don’t know that we do. And we should. A good meeting is a sort of exclusive group performance, presented for and by attendees, and happening just once — so if you weren’t there, you missed it, but if you were there, it will always be part of you.
That really struck me when I was listening to, of all things, an interview with Neil Patrick Harris. Comedian Chris Hardwick was talking to Harris about a magic show that Harris recently directed in Los Angeles. They were joined by the show’s performers, magicians Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães, and when Harris explained why he’s such a champion of magic and other variety-style performances — “I want people to value seeing live things that are good,” he said, “and seeing them live” — DelGaudio offered a lovely, off-the-cuff commentary on why live experiences matter:
“It’s temporal. A lot of it has to do with knowing that this is happening in the world right now at this moment and can never be reproduced in some way. Whether or not [the performer is] going to tell the same joke, do the same effect or something — I know that this is happening for me.”
In our rush to expand our remote audiences and make our content available post-conference via any number of digital platforms, are we giving short shrift to the beating heart of our meetings? Are we neglecting the magic — the unvarnished presence, the serendipity, the communality, the sheer liveness — that makes them like no other professional experience for the people who are there?