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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Conventions are for creating connections

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Two women connecting at a conference

What makes in-person conventions far superior to virtual ones?

Besides the pleasure of traveling to a far-off location and getting a break from work and daily routines, in-person events have the advantage of bringing people together in ways that allow for making meaningful connections with others.

We’ve learned that virtual meetings have many advantages – with convenience and safety topping the list – but they fail to satisfy our need for human connection. They don’t allow for as rich an audience experience.

Even in smaller virtual meetings with a gallery of faces on our computer screens, are we creating connections? Only minimally.

Creating connections is the #1 advantage of in-person versus virtual events.

Ask a speaker what they miss when an in-person event becomes virtual and it will be losing the ability to truly connect with their audience. The benefit of not losing their luggage does not outweigh this loss.

Similarly, ask attendees what they miss when an event is virtual instead of in-person, and they will miss not only meeting the speakers in person but networking with their colleagues. Human connection enhances the experience for both speaker and audience.

Speakers need to connect with their audience.

When I present virtually, I miss the connection with my audience that can only be imagined when speaking to my computer’s camera and doing the occasional poll or soliciting comments in the chat.

Even speaking on screen to the members of my small Toastmasters Club doesn’t provide the level of feedback and connection that occurs in the flesh. Zoom is good but it’s not like being in the room.

Audience feedback that occurs in-the-moment and in-the-flesh provides speakers with information that can make or break their effectiveness. A puzzled look draws out a clearer explanation. A smile or nod confirms they are with you.

Audience engagement improves both in-person and virtual experiences but is far superior in-person. Virtually, audiences often multi-task and pay limited attention. In person, a speaker can more easily keep an audience interested and involved.

The audience that feels connected to the speaker attends, learns, and achieves the outcomes desired. Speakers need connection with their audiences and audiences need to connect with the speaker and each other.

Attendees need to connect with each other.

Conventions provide attendees with continuing education and other benefits, but more than anything else, attendees benefit from connecting with their fellow professionals - both new colleagues as well as old friends.

The relationships that are created and strengthened at live conferences are tremendously valuable. They result in shared information, job opportunities, collaborations, and much more. The smart event planner creates multiple opportunities for attendees to connect.

Connecting effectively is simple with intentionality. Follow these…

6 steps to create and cultivate convention connections:

  1. Recognize that you are always making an impression – so make a good first impression and leave a positive lasting impression.

  2. Seek to build relationships – ask permission to connect, identify common ground, be authentic, remember names, and build trust.

  3. Show interest in others – ask good questions and listen attentively.

  4. Exchange business cards and add notes to help you remember the encounter.

  5. Seek to give rather than get – become a resource, refer to others if someone seeks expertise you do not have, and look for how you can help.

  6. Follow-up in a personalized way – thank those who provided you with leads or information. Provide answers and solutions to questions and requests posed to you.

Conventions are for creating connections. Be intentional to create and cultivate your connections.

“The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.” ~ Tom Ford

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