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The Benefits and Limitations of Digital Disruptors

Research shows that virtual communication is less effective than face-to-face, but the reality is that digital events are an important advancement for our industry.

I was at an educational forum recently where the keynote presenter spoke with passion regarding the success of completely virtual meetings in building communities using tools such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Skype. The inference was that this digital disruption would cause face-to-face meetings to eventually fade away. While I am in absolute agreement that these virtual communities allow powerful sharing of ideas, I am also a firm believer that there still is nothing that replaces interactions and relationship building at face-to-face meetings. Observing body language and facial expressions is critical for a complete picture of a conversation. In fact, UCLA research has shown that only 7 percent of communication is based on the actual words we say; 38 percent comes from tone of voice, and the majority—55 percent—comes from body language.

Related Case Study: With Hybrid Meetings, It's a Small World

However, in those instances when traveling to a face-to-face meeting is prohibitively expensive, digital disruptors provide alternatives that can be a lifeline for learning. There are regions of the world where traveling to participate in a medical or scientific meeting in North America or Europe is not realistic. This is a great opportunity to provide virtual or hybrid meeting opportunities! The main meeting is livestreamed to a central location, and physicians or scientists from the region congregate there to hear the main content and also share ideas and network with colleagues in a live environment. The best of both worlds!

Here’s my perspective: Digital disruption has been an important advancement for our industry. Virtual and hybrid meet-ups are a great way to keep connected throughout the year, either before or after the opportunity for a face-to-face encounter. People may participate in a virtual meeting first, and then travel to the live event the next time! Digital disruptors can drive attendance at meetings as well as keeping the dialog going 24/7/365!

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