Last Friday the members in my audience at EMC Venues’ MEET voted on questions I asked and saw their cumulative votes appear on the screens on either side of me soon thereafter. They loved it. I only wish audiences had more ways to share and compare all year long. That’s what moms in medicine are doing.
Whatever your profession or industry in which you work you probably get invited to join one or more professional associations. And if you have attended the annual conference you know, first-hand, the power of meeting peers face-to-face to keep up with the latest trends in your work world. Plus some of your closest friendships may have blossomed through gathering at those conferences year after year. That is especially true if you are a boomer or older. Let’s not fall into the Status Quo Trap.
Younger generations are accustomed to text messaging and emailing each other all year long, checking out each others’ profiles on FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social networks. In short, they are forging friendships and finding work contacts online. In fact, many of those entering college need a workshop to learn how to meet and talk in person.
So, like many sea changes, this gap between how people are used to meeting and collaborating is a two-edged sword. The burgeoning use of social media creates discomfort and opportunity. As a frequent speaker at conferences, I have been advocating more interactive meetings, storyboarding them to make them more meaningful and involving social media to deepen the in-person connections all year long. That’s why I wrote about the threat that association professionals face from “outsiders” if they don’t provide more ways for member to interact, as these have done. My fellow MeCo members have picked up the discussion as have Jon at Confabb, Amanda Fretheim Gates and Ben Zeitlin of West Glen.
As my friend Jeff Davidson notes, in this time of increasing social isolation we crave face-to-face meetings with our peers. The high tech of social media is getting user-friendly – even for non-geek boomers like me. That means the high touch of the conference experience can only get better as people can continue to get to know each other when they are not face-to-face.
I’m optimistic. Many of us predict that 2008 will bring a rush of social media adoption among some associations, opening the floodgates for more member organizations to jump in the pool. Certainly if a social media maven goes after an association’s members with an alternative offering, more meeting professionals will be shocked into taking a quick primer on blogs, wikis, vlogs, podcasts, social networks, online groups and more. Dan Parks, Corbin Ball, Joan L. Eisenstodt, Jeff De Cagna and others are leading the way for us. Research indicates this adoption will build trust and innovation. Not a small goal for 2008, eh?