What Netflix and Meetings Have in Common.

April 4, 2013

House of CardsLast night I finished watching the Netflix original series, House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey which is a show about dirty Washington politics. It’s a bit addicting especially for a Kevin Spacey fan.  I watched the 13 episode series in three sittings which is typical for anyone who was sucked into the drama.  I couldn’t tear myself away and wanted to watch more. And I wanted to watch it when I wanted and as much as I wanted.

This wasn’t the first time that I have consumed entertainment in this fashion.  I zipped through Revenge, Downton Abbey and eight full seasons of Weeds in a matter of weeks.  Yes, I have aware that this is probably not the healthiest activity and I should have been out exercising or something, but that’s how I spent my winter.  My point is that “in the old days,” we had to wait weeks or months to watch our favorite shows.  Now with services like Netflix, we can get instant gratification. Not only do we get instant access, but we can get it on the go by watching from our mobile devices.

This got me thinking about how we consume information and specifically how we learn and engage at meetings and conferences. We used to have to wait until a scheduled time and place to watch a presentation, but now we have access to recorded content that we can view at our leisure.  Often we would only get content from organizations that we were affiliated with, but now we have access to the entire interweb of information.  Our learning doesn’t only take place in the classroom now.  We can learn while sitting on the beach with our iPads  and headphones or while waiting for a flight at the airport. 

However, this isn’t a perfect scenario.  When I am watching my shows on demand, I miss out on the online chatter that happens during the show. I know that I follow #Americanidol during the finals to see who others are rooting for.  This live discussion also happens as conferences and other live events. We have our back-channel conversation about speakers, topics and social events.  When I watch a session replay, I miss the real-time dialogue that takes place. I also miss the energy that can only be felt sitting in the room with peers who are anxious to learn. The buzz of an audience. The feeling of just being there.

On the flip side, I may have been reading the dialogue and that promoted me to watch a session that I missed. I missed out on the first-run, but can still learn from the recorded version.  In the case of House of Cards, I started watching based on the feedback that I read on social networks. 

The moral of the story is that there is a huge benefit to learning and consuming information in a real-time, face-to-face environment. However, time constraints, or simply lack of awareness of an event can cause people to miss something.  We are lucky to be able to both learn and/or be entertained when we want to and in the medium that we prefer.  As we continue to move more towards an on-demand world, there are lessons to be learned for meeting planners and marketers alike.

Do you agree?