On Friday, February 28, I was knee-deep in Microsoft Research’s largest event of the year, TechNext. Hundreds of researchers from around the world were getting ready to board planes bound for Redmond, WA, to showcase their cutting-edge demos—content they’d been preparing for months, even years.
And then the coronavirus hit stateside. Within 48 hours of the tragic first fatality in Washington State—mere miles from the Microsoft campus—all of the company’s large scheduled events switched from live to virtual, and my role as an event and video producer for Microsoft forever changed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what events will look like moving forward. The tried and true keynote & demo video format that’s used by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and more has been obliterated. How will we reimagine live events that fill NBA arenas? How will tech companies showcase their latest technologies? How do we engage 50, 5000, and 50,000 people online? Nobody has this figured out yet.
I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can. You may recognize my teachers—Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver. I’ve become a late-night comedy addict. They are setting the stage for what will work—and what won’t—for virtual events. We get to learn and laugh at the same time.
Here’s what I’ve learned from the kings of late night.