Recently I was talking to a friend of mine, who is in a long-term relationship with someone across the country. She kept telling me, “I can’t wait to see my boyfriend! I can’t wait to see him!” I thought they had arranged a visit, but really they had arranged the upgrade of his laptop to have a built-in camera. When she said, “I can’t wait to see my boyfriend” what she meant was “I can’t wait to Skype him.”
There are a lot of cool ways to connect with people, but the term “face to face” is getting a, well, facelift. (Pun intended, of course.) It’s cheaper and often more convenient to web chat, and there are a million services out there that are getting sharper and more dependable. MemberClicks often does trainings and demos using GoToMeeting, and I personally use Oovoo to video chat with my friends around the country once a week. Google+ hangouts are pretty cool, and since I started playing around in their Communities section I’ve been floated several invitations to collaborate via video chat.
But that’s not how things were done in the past, and there are many old-guard association executives out there who still insist on flying themselves or associates around the country to make eye contact, shake hands, and give out business cards. Those practices seem old-fashioned and wasteful when you can just connect on LinkedIn, but could they be onto something? Are face-to-face meetings necessary and inevitable for good business?
As usual, the middle ground is probably the best and safest way. You’ll be remiss if you ignore the convenience and the fact that the future leaders of your associations are already using the internet for marketing, and are arguably having just as impactful results. On the other hand, emerging next-gen association leaders will be missing invaluable personal touch of that “Hallway Networking” (to coin a phrase from one of our Solutions Advisors, Greg) where you strike up a conversation, find some common ground, and make a connection.
It's up to you to determine which method works best, and how often to put it into practice. After all, every association is different! But don't write off either method of networking. There's value to both.