Reflection on International Project Management Day

This year’s International Project Management Day is focused on environmental projects that preserve or protect the environment. Although I don’t work in the installation of wind farms or the development of solar energy products, I recently participated in Conference: Zero which was a low carbon conference.
Conference: Zero was organized by APM and Pentacle Virtual Business School. It used a Second Life-style conference setting. The screenshots show that it was almost like playing a computer game but not as good as GTAV.
Dr Yoram BoscHaddard, Senior Vice President at Capgemini, presents in the virtual environment. As the delegates could attend from anywhere, with an internet connection, we collectively saved more than 56,000 miles and CO2 emissions. This type of networking for project managers could be a success.
Tweet from Conference: Zero from an attendee. The feedback from delegates was – at least from the tweets and emails after the event – that it had technical issues. Some rooms were difficult to load and move, regardless of how fast your internet connection is. I missed the opening keynote due to difficulty in accessing the virtual room. I also know of one delegate that gave up at lunchtime, complaining about the frustration and the fact that he was arriving late for every session.
I was discussing the themes in my book Customer-Centric project management and I intentionally started my session on time. This was important for me (I only had 20 minutes to talk about it) and for those who had put in the effort and wanted to respect their time. If I or any other presenter had started on time, we wouldn’t have finished our material. It would have been frustrating for everyone.
The online conference has a lot to offer. You can even wear your pajamas to join the online conference (as I did for Andrew Hubbard’s talk at 7.30am). You can come and go as you like, attending the presentations that interest you and making a contribution if there isn’t something you are interested in. It’s harder to network. Because there is no coffee or lunch queue, it’s almost impossible for random delegate to strike up conversation. I visited the bookshop several times, but no one was there. This would be unusual at a real-life conference where people browse for hours.
My book is on display in the bookshop. I would go back, but this virtual environment requires practice. It is easy to navigate a room and chat to people, but it takes practice to do that with a keyboard. It is important to master the nuances of online networking in virtual environments. It’s great for the environment but it doesn’t offer the same benefits as a day at the office. This is one of the reasons you should go to a conference. It refreshes and inspires you. I know that it does for me.
It’s not the same sitting at my computer eating breakfast or feeling frustrated that I’m missing presentations. While I believe we will see more events hosted online to reduce travel costs and the environment, I hope that face-toface events don’t disappear completely.

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