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Reconsidering Online vs. In-Person Professional Meetings
March 20, 2013 - 9:00pm

This week I led a discussion on academic/vendor relations with a product group at an edtech company.  The meeting was in Canada.  I never left my office in Hanover NH.  We did the whole thing on a Web based collaboration platform.

You'd have to ask the team members of the product edtech company product group how useful they thought the discussion was - but from my perspective it was productive and enjoyable.  (At least I learned lots of things, always my guide for judging how an interaction such as this has gone).

On Friday my wife will drive 3 and 1/2 hours (each way) to attend a face-to-face professional meeting with her peers.  She will leave the house at 5:00 am and return late in the evening. 

Which one of us is getting the better professional meeting deal?

There is no doubt that we all get more out of face-to-face meetings. Traveling to a meeting or a conference gets us (mostly) out of our day-to-day distractions. 

We travel to meetings for the people, not the content - and people are best experienced face-to face, not screen-to-screen.  Professional networks and relationships are developed and nurtured at in-person meetings.  A well-organized face-to-face professional meeting is energizing and restorative.

Despite these very real advantages of the in-person meeting there are also real costs.  

Travel is exhausting, time consuming and expensive.  We travel to professional meetings with the best of intentions of focusing on the event, and find ourselves pulled into putting out fires by e-mail and phone, working late into the night to stay on top of things. Some sessions or discussions are terrific, others are poorly executed and can barely hold our attention.  

Lately, I've been thinking that our understanding of how to plan and run a quality online professional meeting has advanced to the point where it makes sense to always consider this option when planning our own events.

Yes, the technology of synchronous online meeting platforms has evolved.  But mostly I think we are gaining enough experience in online meetings that we know how to plan and run them more effectively.  

We understand the amount of planning and orchestration that needs to be invested in the online event prior to the meeting.  We are much more practiced in techniques to ensure that the online meeting is interactive and collaborative. 

We have moved away from online meetings as opportunities to deliver content, and towards a model that is conversational and inclusive.  Our online meetings are shorter, more tightly focused, and collegial.   

Have you attended any online professional meetings lately?   

How did it go?  



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