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As I write this in mid-September, NAB has just cancelled for the second time in 2021. At the other end of the COVID-related news, IBC announced that it will be moving forward without masking or social distancing requirements and that the Dutch government is relaxing travel restrictions for "very high risk countries—which, at the moment, include the UK and the US.

That puts conscientious trade show regulars in a strange position: many of us have now gone from not being able to attend IBC (unless we were willing to cough up the cash for 2 weeks' worth of hotel nights to quarantine upon arrival) to not knowing if we want to attend. All research points to the fact that vaccinated people can still carry and spread the virus, even if our likelihood of getting seriously ill from it is minimal. As much as I’m eager to get back to international travel and network with my peers, IBC's decision to forego masking and social distancing feels premature. (Plus, if I test positive in Amsterdam, I'm stuck there for 2 weeks before I can come home. There are worse places to quarantine, but I’m not sure my cholesterol can take 14 days of room-service bitterballen.)

All of which is to say that we’re a long way from figuring out the "new normal." But virtual and hybrid events are clearly here to stay. As CDN Alliance chair Mark de Jong wrote on LinkedIn, "[In-person and virtual] events will live side-by-side in the future, and there will be exclusive events that are in-person only. The old 'normal' will be the new 'exclusive.'" I've yet to find an events platform that can replace the serendipity of a conference beer garden or The Beach at IBC. But Beers at the Beach isn't exactly a sustainable business model.

So we forge ahead with virtual events, including our own Streaming Forum Connect in early October, which featured discussions about low latency, OTT workflows, and live streaming. If we can’t raise a toast or share a coffee together, at least we can keep the vital conversations going.

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