Virtual events became a necessity back in 2020 and are now a norm. However, despite the array of tools available to enhance and augment virtual gatherings, these environments usually don’t reach the same quality of networking that in-person meetings provide.
Randy Bean, Wavestone data practice partner and CEO of NewVantage Partners, a Wavestone company, expressed similar sentiments in a recent blog, saying, “…it was wonderful to re-engage in person with so many committed industry data leaders.” He hosted the keynote Chief Data Officer panel discussion at the 2022 MIT CDOIQ Symposium, which took a two-year hiatus from being in-person due to the pandemic.
Other notable CDOs also shared their memories and experiences of the event, which clearly illustrate the power of meeting in person, such as:
We subconsciously rely on body language cues to carry out human interactions. When facing a screen, no matter how HD, we often lose out on such cues. This can make pursuing higher-level topics and more in-depth discussions more difficult.
Casual conversations can sometimes be a gold mine of ideas, which are less likely to happen in a virtual setting. There’s no random element of bumping into an old acquaintance or mentor while lining up for a coffee during the break, reducing the likelihood of spontaneous conversation between peers.
In a digital chatroom of 400 others, it can also be challenging to have your voice heard or feel a sense of belonging and community when you feel lost in the crowd of usernames and still photos.
When you’re in the same physical space as the person you’re speaking with, it’s easier to come up with new ideas and solve problems together. Creative solutions often come from collaboration, brainstorming, and quick off-the-bat idea bouncing.
An example was shared by Vanguard Chief Data Analytics Officer Ryan Swann who said, “As the CDO/CDAO space continues to evolve, our senior leaders must continue to grow and lead global organizations to drive business outcomes and reduce risk with data. The MIT CDOIQ Symposium helps us do this by providing a variety of information and resources on multiple levels – strategic, tactical, innovative, and collaborative.”
Harness the power of meeting in-person
Virtual events and meetings are here to stay. And they certainly are valuable tools. But we cannot discount the clear benefits of face-to-face interaction. Human beings are mostly a social species. We rely on personal interaction in physical space, not just digital, to make meaningful connections with others.
If we look at the workplace environment, with the rise of remote and hybrid working, in-person interactions sometimes take a backseat. We should be mindful to create ways to stay physically connected. Employee meetups or requesting employees work in the office one day a week can be great ways for companies to get to know their employees better and for employees to get to know each other. In-person work develops your corporate culture and a sense of belonging, too.
Of course, what is considered practical or counterproductive, is heavily influenced by your industry, management style, employee base, and company culture. Leadership, including IT leaders, must tailor the approach to their teams to ensure actual value comes from such personal interaction.
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