With all the technology we use to bring people together and make information more rapidly distributable, you may think that the need for live, in-person meetings and events would be impacted. If the new product announcements we’ve grown accustomed to chasing down at tradeshows, for example, are neatly delivered to our inboxes (or to our LinkedIn and Facebook streams, or to the websites that cover our industry), doesn’t that limit our need to travel to industry and networking events?
You’d think that might be the case, but it’s not. In fact, with each passing year, our industry’s shows are seeing record attendance. These events continue to receive massive support: People aren’t only looking for news about what’s going to impact our industry; they want to be at the event, seeing these impactful new technologies first hand.
As human beings, we crave real, in-person communications. Although younger people may make human interaction appear less important through their emoji-laden conversations, spending time and networking in person is an integral part of our businesses.
There are two specific benefits offered by in-person events that digital interaction simply cannot replace: learning and relationships.
When it comes to learning about our craft, there are countless webinars and online educational opportunities. (For example, NSCA offers free monthly webinar series. And our C-SIP training program offers online training courses for new industry employees who are taking on sales, project management, marketing or operations roles, and results in earning a certificate as a systems integration professional.) We obviously believe in the value of these types of programs, but they can only go so far. The information created and shared within these platforms is invaluable, but it’s easy to become distracted by other sites and social opportunities, by phone calls or by people walking into our offices.
This is why online learning for our jobs, and even higher education online, is often seen as less effective than classroom-type sessions. At in-person events, there are opportunities to attend sessions focused much like a classroom; oftentimes, for an hour or two, you can concentrate on learning instead of what pops up in your Facebook stream. Getting outside of your work environment can be powerful for learning.
I am also a huge believer in the power of building relationships, live and in person. We tend to keep online relationships pretty superficial. When I meet people in person, where we share lunch, play golf or spend time at events, I’ve noticed that the bonds are deeper, whether it’s time spent with colleagues, clients, partners or vendors. All of these relationships get richer when time is spent together (similar to how colleagues become closer by having lunch or going to happy hour). Spending time at an event and going to education sessions or parties can be a great way to get facetime with people and build a memory that becomes the basis of a newfound or deeper working relationship. It’s quite powerful!
Perhaps I’m a bit old hat about all of this. I’m a Baby Boomer and have spent many years of my career conducting many meetings and events in person, or at least via phone, where there was much more inflection and personal nature to each relationship. But I’ve still grown to love new media; heck, I even wrote a book about it for my peers in the industry! I would go even further to say that I have grown quite fond of the balance between in-person relationship building and the impact that continued digital contact can have.
Having just returned from hosting another Business & Leadership Conference event, I continue to witness countless deep and meaningful relationships that naturally blossom from this annual event. There are many benefits to getting out of the office and networking at events. Not only does this meet our instinctive desire as humans to spend time face to face, but it truly has the power to make the bonds we digitally create even deeper.
This is precisely why I believe that people still put in the time and effort to attend and grow events in our industry. Furthermore, this is why I see no reversal in the trend any time soon. Sure, I see the newest gadgets on digital channels, but the bonds we build, the people we meet and the memories we create in person are truly priceless. Let’s step out from behind our phones and computers, and take the time to learn and grow relationships with our industry peers at events around the world. We look forward to seeing you live (and online) very soon!
P.S. Speaking of in-person events, NSCA is planning its second-annual Pivot to Profit event. Mark your calendars now for September 28-29 in Chicago!