Virtual engagement has opened up massive opportunities, yet we still crave the personal
By Neil Sutton
I’m starting to feel like I may never get on a plane again.
As a reporter and magazine editor, I have spent years travelling for work: trade shows, vendor summits, association conferences and expos — most of them across Canada and the U.S. and occasionally overseas.
Each trip requires careful planning, expense, the postponement or delegation of some work functions and, of course, travel time. Of course, I’m never far away from email, and laptops make for pretty convenient travel companions, but the out of office experience can be fraught with inconvenience.
So many of these events are now pivoting online due to travel and budgetary restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Events I may have received a personal invitation to a year ago are now email reminders to sign up for webinars and virtual events. Now I can attend half a dozen insightful presentations in a few hours and not have to travel much further than from my desk to my kitchen in a day.
As I’m writing this, we’re about to stage a virtual event for SP&T’s sister publication Canadian Security on property management and retail security during the pandemic. (Check back for updates on virtual events coming soon to SP&T.) The range of speakers and attendees we’re able to host at these events is no longer restricted by geography. The only real limitation is time zone and in North America, that’s not a big deal, especially when you can record events for replay.
I am enjoying this new freedom and there are new possibilities opening up all the time. So why am I feeling a loss? Travel, especially through airports, can be wearying, yet I miss it.
More importantly, I miss the networking and the connections you form with people through travel and attending conferences in person. Many of the lasting business relationships I’ve made over the years have started with random conversations and chance encounters. These relationships only get stronger when you see that person again at the next conference.
Networking is the lifeblood of the security business. As big as this industry is, it’s also a community. You see that time and time again, whether it’s at a show in Moncton, Montreal, Dallas or Chicago.
I think we’re all missing out on the social events, chapter meetings, golf tournaments and education seminars. More importantly, we’re not connecting with clients and customers in person any more, and those connections help to drive business.
It may take months (or longer) but eventually we’ll see COVID-19 restrictions lift to the point where people can get in their cars or board planes more frequently. Hopefully what will emerge from this pandemic is a hybrid where we can experience the best of both worlds: the freedom and utility of virtual meetings and the more personal experiences created by travel and live events.