The reality of today’s business world is that many of us spend more time working on a computer than with real people; the entire workday seems to revolve around your desktop, laptop, iPad and mobile. We communicate through texting, emailing and social media, living digitally online as much as we live in the real world with our colleagues, friends and family. 

Screens and technology have enabled people to be closer together than ever before – instantaneously – but they also lack a key, irreplaceable component: personal, real live connection. And that’s why, on Global Meetings Industry Day, the entire meeting, convention and hospitality community comes together to support the meaningful interactions and relationships cultivated by conferences, conventions, meetings and events.

Yes, the digital world allows you to maximize productivity and reach more people than ever before - in real time. At the same time, screens don’t let you network with the decision maker or influencer sitting next to you at a conference education session, grab coffee with an old colleague between sessions, meet new people at the first-timers’ lunch or stumble on a cool new product at a tradeshow.

A wise person once said to me, “You can’t shake hands over the internet”. For me, these are words to live by. Online, you can’t extend you hand, look someone in the eyes and let them know you are glad to meet them, acknowledging they exist in real life and that they are important to you.

Many years ago, there was much talk about virtual meetings and video conferences replacing the need to travel and meet in person. Agreed, there is a time and place for this for the right reasons; however, there are too many reasons to list as to why the virtual has not, and hopefully never will, take over.

One recent and very meaningful example for me was the 2016 PCMA Convening Leaders Annual Meeting in Vancouver. I’m sure Austin felt the same this year, as did other host cities in the past. Welcoming close to 4,000 industry colleagues in my hometown, live and in person, is one of the best feelings I have ever had in my career in this industry. I know my colleagues felt the same way, and it reminded us of making connections during other key events, like when Vancouver and Whistler hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 2010. With PCMA and other important industry organizations, many wonderful relationships are maintained online digitally. The icing on the cake was being able to enjoy face-to-face interactions, and share our destination in-person, with colleagues, clients and partners These experiences are very emotional, in a really good way.  

So this week, especially during Global Meetings Industry Day on Thursday, April 6, I encourage a balance. Productivity and connections in the digital world for sure; at the same time, embrace and celebrate real live face-to-face interaction. Shake as many hands as you can and, when you do, be sure to look the person in the eyes and let them know you are glad to really meet them.