In reviewing these two reports, the basic argument is that technology cannot replace the intimacy of face-to-face meetings and conferences. Yes, while there is no question that technology cannot replace the experience of a handshake, virtual environments and technologies, like InXpo’s, can augment the overall experience and facilitate initial networking that would then be cemented with a face-to-face meeting at a later date.
As the Forbes report stated: “Web-, video- and teleconferencing have their role, but the executives in the survey do not expect them to make the need for face-to-face meetings obsolete. Rather, many see the ideal as a mix of face-to-face and technology-enabled meetings and conferences. (Fig. 9)”
So how does Virtual Augment Face-to-Face?
The Forbes Insight report focused mainly on different type of conferencing technologies, which tends to be for smaller gatherings, while the HSAI survey looked at face-to-face conferences, which can range from 100 to thousands. Per the HSMAI survey, it highlighted 6 ways in which technology could not replace the conference experience:
“1) socializing and networking spontaneously, 2) helping attendees best put names with faces, 3) allowing more free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters, 4) training effectively via live and personal interaction, 5) paying greater attention to others when face-to-face, and 6) engaging in real-time conversation that is not interrupted by technical glitches.”
While I cannot discuss other technologies, I would like to address five of the points based on how customers and attendees have used our platform for their virtual conferences:
- Social and networking spontaneously: One of the most active areas of a virtual event environment is the networking lounge. The conversations in the networking lounge are more casual, interactive, and promote networking with other online attendees.
- Put names with faces: Each person has the ability to add an image to her profile. This helps provide a visual connection to the person you are chatting with within in the environment. And with more laptops embedded with webcams, video-based chat which is available today on the InXpo platform that will become more commonplace.
- More free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters: Virtually, you can have “just-in-time” booth staffing based on the flow of people in your booth, which isn’t possible in the physical world. This provides increased flexibility to speak to more attendees in your “booth” via private or group chats. This also applies to presenters with scheduled chats before or after a presentation.
- Training: Virtual provides an opportunity to review content, redo simulations and retest skills to reinforce training. Interestingly, a recent article in the New York Times (Study Finds that Online Classroom Education Beats the Classroom) summarized a study by SRI International for the Department of Education that highlighted the benefits of online learning:
- Real-Time conversation: Without understanding the level of “technical glitches” referred to in the survey, the text and video-based chat available via on the InXpo platform are very stable and take place in real-time.
“Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference.”
Instead of looking at technology as a “replacement” to face-to-face, I urge meeting and event planners to look at how technology can enhance and augment the physical experience for your attendees. Depending on your event objectives and audience needs, this may be as minimal as using Twitter to increase back channel communications to holding a virtual event concurrently with your physical one. While I didn’t go into social technologies, Interactive Meeting Technology blog wrote a post titled “Do Social Technologies Add Value to Face-to-Face Meetings” which delves into this aspect.
I will explore five ways that virtual can be used with face-to-face for maximum results in a future post. I would like to hear from you – Do you see technology benefitting face-to-face? Why or why not? Leave your comments below or tweet @InXpoLive.
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Response to Forbes and HSMAI Surveys: Virtual Augments F2F by @InXpoLive: http://bit.ly/DwQfH #virtual #eventprofs