What's the Value Of A Face-to-Face? Ask Gen Yers!

Out of the mouths of babes!

It seems Gen Yers -- those young adults with every electronic gadget known to mankind, and who can Tweet, text, create a PowerPoint and play DoodleJump all at the same time -- also have a soft spot in their heart for old-fashioned, face-to-face meetings.

Meetings with Tech

A recent edition of the Las Vegas Sun says that during the Professional Convention Management Association conference held last week at the city's MGM Grand hotel, a panel of six students said they'd attend meetings and conferences "for the social opportunities they present" and the benefits of networking. While this is obviously not a scientific survey of how all Gen Yers feel, I was impressed by their recognition of the value of face-to-face events. There is hope for the next generation after all!

Read what one panelist, Yasha Bergmann, a student at Queen Margaret University, in Edinburgh, Scotland, had to say: "Once people meet at events like this, the communication and the relationship can continue for years."

Despite their aversion for physical interaction and conversation (versus an attraction of an http address), it's clear that Gen Yers have every intention of using meetings technology to increase communication and efficiency. While some see that keeping a cell phone on during a meeting is rude and distracting, others want to keep them handy and functional to enhance the meeting itself. “Why write down questions on paper to forward to a speaker?” asked Renea Anderson, a student at the University of Central Florida. “We could be texting questions instead of writing them out. I think attendees would love being on the cutting edge. And it’s all about business.”

Smart kids. Those attitudes fall perfectly in line with the latest findings from PhoCusWright's study -- "Groups and Meetings: Driving Success in Business Travel's Most Complex Segment, 2010." In that study, 11% of meeting planners said that, at their last event, they implemented social networking for live updates, for example, Twitter; 10% used social networking services for attendees to connect with one another; and 7% offered mobile messaging.

In the meantime, the NBTA Foundation has just come out with an updated forecast for 2011 that says technology could decrease the need for business travel this year, but could also lead to more face-to-face events. After all, virtual attendees have to meet eventually!

This is all very cool stuff, and shows that meetings technology and live events are very much intertwined and will be even more so in the future. So for those folks predicting the early demise of face-to-face meetings, the next generation doesn’t think so!

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.