Virtual vs. Face-to-Face: Maximizing the Benefits
Just recently I came across an article in The Wall Street Journal about ‘The Power of Conferences in a Social Media Age.’ It gave me pause. It talked about how to use your social media skills to make the best use of your conference experience. Interesting.
Some time ago, people talked about how travelling to a face-to-face conference would be soon going the way of the Dodo bird. Technology would make meeting people in person obsolete.
About 10 years ago, a prominent hotel in Canada invested more than $1M in what we call their Star Trek boardroom. It was truly awe-inspiring. Everything could happen from there and be broadcasted to anywhere in the world. But for a lot of folks something was missing. To this day, the room and its capability are still not used to their maximum potential.
It seems people still want to shake hands, establish relationships and share experiences. Yes, social media has its place, but it is still somewhat transactional in nature. And, while technology races forward with new apps appearing daily, in my opinion it still has a lot of growing up to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as active on all my social media channels as the next person, while integrating both worlds still seems a work in progress.
While hybrid conferences are advantageous for delivering information, having a true creative exchange of ideas tends to lose momentum when folks are only engaging with a screen. Real human emotion, empathy and eye contact have been proven to hasten both trust and the relationship.
Science will always progress and I love the journey. Soon, very soon, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will come fully online and again transform our perceptions regarding personal experiences. More on this in future newsletters.
Conferences will always be about shared experiences. Technology bolsters those experiences, but after being able to host virtual meetings for more than a decade, it is good to see that the handshake IRL: in real life, continues to be valued. Soon we will be introducing our personal robots to each other, while we have lunch together, in person, being creative and visionary.
Top 5 Ideas: Creative Catering Options
- Compliments to the CHEF – For a while now, there has been movement towards offering local fare options in food and beverages. I work with several clients in the agriculture industry and recently we were asked to allow award-winning farmers to bring in samples of their harvests for the chef to prepare. I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the chef eager to meet these farmers and use the samples, but they established ongoing relationships. Everyone wins. Engage the chef – ask them to give you something to show your delegates you really thought of the content!
- CHANGE THE ROOM – There are a lot of hotels that have areas that go unused after events like complimentary breakfasts locations. Ask to use this space for your meals! You’ll be able to use smaller tables to engage groups in a different way. As a bonus, it gives delegates a break from the same meeting space and can open new lines of communication.
- FAMILY STYLE – This is one catering option that I personally think is under-used. I like to think outside the box, so for a luncheon at a hotel I used to work for I did just that. All our food was prepared off-site and brought in. Doing a plated lunch for 100 was usually difficult and unwieldy. Buffet was always better … but this group had seen it all. We decided to serve a Mexican-inspired lunch in a family-style. We offered big bowls of food, platters of salads and delegates could make their own fajitas and tacos. Guess what? They LOVED it! Everyone helped themselves, it made for great conversation and it was a fun way to be able to choose what you wanted and make your meal how you liked it.
- Food-Truck INSPIRED service – We had the pleasure of attending a great industry party that had the very cool idea of driving food-trucks into the space to serve the group. There were a few different trucks to choose from which was great. The lineups were well maintained by taking orders in the line and then presenting the number when you got to the window. This inspired food service would work well in an outdoor space for the end of session or even just dessert. HELLO ice cream truck!
- Give and RECEIVE – Ask your catering manager if they have a sustainability plan for food waste. This is a new concept and option for some venues. See if you can give safe, cooked, leftover food to an organization in the neighbourhood that supports vulnerable people. You can only imagine how much food waste happens in hotels. Think about how your delegates would feel about giving to the community. Imagine how many kids would benefit from leftover whole fruit for breakfast clubs, or pans of pasta donated to a shelter to add to their evening menu? See if this is something you can arrange with organizations that the venue has a relationship with.
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