The Importance of Face Time

With the 2012 Ipsos Knowledge Summit in Seattle behind us, I thought it would be a good time to reflect and share a key learning I had from this event – and that is that, face time counts.  No, not the iPhone app, but the idea that not all communication is best accomplished virtually.

In planning for this year’s summit, we considered not holding an in-person event, but to conduct it all virtually via webinar.  After all, it’s easier and cheaper for everyone to hold events virtually, right?  I bounced this idea off of a few clients who have attended these events in the past and I got the same response – “Oh, we really like these events and being able to meet and see everyone in person.”  And so we went forward in planning a live, in-person event.  This year’s summit ended up being the best to-date (we say this every year, so it really does just keep getting better).  And along the way, we learned some valuable lessons on the importance of live contact and communication.

Lesson 1.

Clients like – and want – to meet you.  It helps to instill confidence and trust. And each new meeting always seems to be prefaced by, “it’s so nice to be able to put the face with the voice and email.”  Virtual communication does not facilitate relationship-building in the same way an in-person meeting can.

Lesson 2.

“Virtual Networking” isn’t.  You simply can’t network and get to meet new people in a virtual meeting. The Ipsos Knowledge Summit helped to facilitate networking on many levels – Ipsos:Client, Client:Client, and Ipsos:Ipsos.  All of these relationships are important.  I met current and prospective clients (some for the first time) and my clients met other clients that they could partner with, and I met some really great people at Ipsos with whom I had previously only communicated with on a virtual level.  Working relationships are easier formed and strengthened through in-person contact.

Lesson 3.

Involve your clients and your audience.  Clients like to share and audiences love case studies.  We had two clients present at this year’s Knowledge Summit – Mitch Robinson from Zillow and Rick Rasmussen from Alaska Airlines.  Both companies view their relationship with Ipsos as a “partnership” and both companies have always taken their research efforts very seriously and have acted upon results.  And both, perhaps not surprisingly, are also very successful companies in a challenging time for their respective industries.  The live format of the event allowed for audience interaction and better sharing of “lessons learned” that participants could walk away with and apply to their own situations.

Lesson 4.

Which leads me to lesson #4; which is that it is simply easier to learn and take away learning you can actually apply in your day-to-day work life when that learning takes place live and in-person.  Working with the mobile innovation lead at Ipsos OTX, Mark Hardie, for the second year in a row we demonstrated and used a new technology to help facilitate audience interaction and questions.  Now, don’t get me wrong, both technologies were really cool, the audience liked it and both did help to facilitate audience interaction.  But, what was amazing to me was the number of people who still held their questions to ask in-person.  Or, if their question was asked from the postings, followed up the answer with another live question.  In-person meetings better facilitate the interaction needed for participants to understand the implications and application of what they are learning.

Lesson 5.

Exploit the novelty of a live event.  Yes, we do live in a virtual world and so much is viral that the live event is now a novelty – something special that doesn’t happen all of the time.  One of the reasons I believe this year’s summit was so successful was our ability to exploit this fact.  We identified a theme and then worked to have everything support this theme and make it something that our audience would want to interact with.

  • Content will always be king and presentations were all designed to showcase collaborative tips, techniques and case studies to help attendees chart their own course to innovation.
  • The venue itself can be a draw. The Canal in Seattle, not only fit with the “journey” and “charting course” theme but provided a great facility with great views to help facilitate interaction.
  • The format allowed for networking both before (coffee & registration) and after (appetizers & cocktails) the event.
  • Gift bags and handouts were not only fun, but consistent with the theme.  For the third year in a row, the only ‘paper’ handout was the actual agenda.  All other handouts were provided to participants in electronic format on a USB stick; a great collaboration between virtual and in-person communication.  We also provided attendees with pens and notepads, integrating old school note-taking with virtual note-taking. And a 10-in-1 survival tool was provided to underscore the point that one size does not fit all and to drive innovation, you need to expand your tool box and consumer understanding; continue to evolve and reconnect with customers to drive success.

So the next time you think it’s too much time, trouble or expense to do it in-person – think again.  In-person events and meetings can best facilitate marketing, networking and relationship building.  So ask yourself, why am I having this event/meeting?  And would a live event best help you meet these goals?