What's missing from virtual cannabis events?

Published Mar 1, 2021 12:59 p.m. ET
iStock / Tero Vesalainen

It’s been a long year, and we’ve worked hard doing everything possible to keep cannabis business activities moving as usual while adapting to a brand-new world filled with masks and social distancing. Technology is of the most highly regarded tools these days, as it has helped to make continuation possible, albeit in an entirely different way than most of us are used to.

We’ve managed to pull together and present from nothing a unique range of online events for cannabis, and for that, we’re all grateful because it’s something to get us through. Still, it wasn’t possible to do this perfectly because we had no idea this was coming and no time to prepare. Almost no one was 100% ready to switch to completely virtual events.

We found ourselves swiftly and unwillingly thrust into this new reality, and though we tried really hard to love the virtual scene just as much as past cannabis events, this way feels colder. Unfortunately, it just isn’t suiting all of us, and we think that’s likely because there are a few incredibly important elements that work together to enhance the experience of cannabis-inspired gatherings, and far too many of them are missing here.

The vibrations

The cannabis industry is a place of excitement, and there’s nowhere that’s usually more obvious than at expos and other related events. The people who work in it are vibrating from head to toe with anticipation as they prepare to make a speech or put on a show that’s designed to change lives, and those who use it are also elated now that they have the opportunity to see the green in a more professional scope. It’s intense, part of what draws us all together, and to be able to feel that even by proxy is an incredible sensation that no computer can provide.

Familiarity

Even though online events promise to offer many of the things and people from times past alongside the latest and greatest innovators, there is something about watching it all go down through a glaringly bright box that makes us feel so much less at home. The process used to be easy. You just had to show up and wing it from there, but now with endless menus, addons, and regular technology bugs, it’s just nowhere near as familiar or comfortable, and that makes it all the more stressful to navigate.

Interaction

Most online cannabis events, in particular, those designed for those in the industry, make a big deal out of the fact that you can still chat up people who you’d normally have seen in person. Networking is a primary purpose of these business functions, which serve as a platform to connect some of the best and brightest with one another. Still, the virtual world leaves out some of the most meaningful and human interactions, such as shaking hands, sharing ideas over a drink, and the like.

The smell

Of course, not everyone at cannabis events is actively partaking, as most are there to do a job, and they want to do it well. However, the majority lavish in a puff or two during down-times resulting in a lingering smell that most of us love. That on top of the scent of fresh soil, delicious foods, budding plants, and various pot products, there is nowhere else in the world quite like it. Even with the best technology, this enticing feature cannot be recreated, and for most of us, it’s a staple that’s greatly missed.

Life-sized demonstrations

It doesn’t matter how amazing your cannabis product or idea is, without a full-sized presentation, it’s bound to lose its luster, especially when it’s viewed through a less than stellar screen that leaves out many of the most important details. If you’re out to buy a cannabis processing machine, you’re going to be much more likely to buy one after watching the magic happen in person, as you’ll get to feel and see every inch of it. Trust is reduced when we shop online for just this reason, it’s too easy to be deceiving, and we really don’t like it.

An audience

Even the most experienced presenters and hosts from cannabis are used to having an audience that interacts, which can help to take some of the pressure off. Every moment doesn’t have to be scripted, and live reactions provide an assurance that everything’s going well. Now instead of pulling from the positive energy of those around, they’re forced to record the information they want to share while staring at a dead-eyed camera, something that is hard to master even with experience.

Somewhere to go

Remember the days when we use to pick out the perfect outfit, put on our business faces and head out into new spaces all over the world? Some of us took cars, while others preferred riding the train or flying depending on distance, but no matter how close to home, there was a journey to be made, and at the end of it all, you knew that you’d be repaid. The moment you arrived surrounded by fellow professionals and consumers was one that most of us looked forward to, now the trip doesn’t go much further than the office or your very own living room, and that just doesn’t feel as good.

This will eventually come to an end

We might have little choice but to take advantage of virtual events, at least until we get ahold of this whole pandemic thing, but better days are on the horizon. Thanks to experts from all over the world, we’re working on getting people vaccinated, and now that a contagious illness has rocked most of our lives, we’re also making changes to reduce the risk like increasing sanitary practices and staying home when we’re sick.

Globally, COVID case counts are dropping, a trend that we hope to see continue into the future, as we’re all praying for the day when we can enjoy good old-fashioned cannabis events once again. It may not be this week, this month, or even this year that we see things return to normal, but slowly and surely, we will make that transition, and in the meantime, it’s important to focus on the fact that we’re all in this together.

We will get through this. It’s just going to take time and patience to do it.

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