"...we haven’t worked out good online tools for many of the reasons people go to these events. Most obviously, we don’t have any software tool for bumping into people in the same field by random chance and having a great conversation. No-one has ever really managed to take a networking event and put it online. You certainly can’t just make a text chat channel for everyone watching the video stream and claim that’s as the same as a cocktail party. Equally, I can go up to a booth on the Qualcomm or Ericsson stand at MWC, wait my turn and then ask an engineer lots of questions, but how do we do that online? I could book a sales call, but that’s not the same at all."
The lack of serendipitous encounters with interesting people in the main hall, or around the coffee machine, is just not there. Many people go to conferences for exactly the kind of bumping into random people, who might turn out to be potential clients, employers, friends, etc. It's not difficult to emulate such encounters in online events, but we need to step aside from the idea of an online event being usually a one-to-many broadcast. Instead, organizers need to ways to foster multiple random (or not so random) one-to-one conversations around the virtual "coffee machine".