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  • Jo McCready

Online vs In-person

One of the good things that has come out of this current global pandemic is the rise of online events and festivals. We have access to content, and interviews that we would never otherwise have been able to attend. Just this weekend, I was lucky enough to hear a group of amazing writers through the Bad Sydney Crime Writers Festival. I’ve also got Bloody Scotland to look forward to next weekend, although the timings aren’t quite as favourable as Bad Sydney. Events that I've never heard of are cropping up all over the place, the choice of what's available is amazing - online festivals, book launches, interviews, readings. You name it, it's out there.

What a line-up at Bad Sydney! Top L-R - Ann Cleeves, Camilla Lackberg, Kathy Reichs. Bottom L-R - Jo Nesbo, Karin Slaughter, Nicci French

So I get it, I see the advantages we are afforded due to the digital age, especially as so many of us are crying out for writers events, or events of any kind …but I’m looking forward to the day when I can attend a real life event or meeting. Whilst there are many advantages of online events and meetings, they are not quite the same and do have their disadvantages too.


· You can turn up in your jammies, with messy hair and no makeup – for the webinars where no one can see you anyway.

· We have access to events, and therefore speakers, we normally wouldn’t due to location.

· They’re more environmentally friendly – no transport to events, no paper brochures.

· They are cheaper than traditional events, and in some cases free.

· For the writers group meetings I am part of, lots more members can attend.


· Online events don’t have the atmosphere of real life, the event isn’t an ‘event’. I enjoy the special rituals involved in setting aside a whole day or weekend just for me. The travelling there, the breaks between sessions, the mulling over what has been discussed.

· You can’t have a cup of tea and cake whilst going over each session with friends. This point is related to the one above but is specifically about the interaction that usually occurs during events, that can often be just as important as the actual event itself.

· Online meetings can be more stilted than in person meetings. They don’t flow in the same way and it’s not possible to split conversations into smaller groups.

I’m hanging out for a book fair that’s happening here in Auckland in November showcasing New Zealand talent. I can’t wait to physically go somewhere and actually do 'book stuff' in a room with other people that will be just as excited as me. I’m looking forward to the day when real life takes over from virtual again. That said, I do think it has its place. I feel privileged and very lucky to have been able to attend so many worldwide events. I hope that going forward, many of the organisers of these events consider keeping a digital component and I’d love to see events that are open to the paying public in both forms, simultaneously. Let’s take what we’ve seen works and use it to make these events better, and more accessible in the future.

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