What a fun day!
I just finished facilitating an online summit, and I'm all a-flutter based on one attendee's comment at the end of the event.
Let me back up a bit. This online webinar was no lunch hour, multitask-friendly event. This was a four-hour summit with a small break for lunch. In other words, it required a commitment of time and energy to attend.
The forum included a keynote speech by an industry leader, breakout sessions (complete with whiteboards that provided that "as close to being there" experience as possible, a panel discussion with three more industry thought leaders and a lively Q&A session. Throughout the webinar, participants were encouraged to submit questions that the presenters could take on the fly. With the limitations of not actually being face-to-face with each other, it was a remarkably casual, comfortable and interactive engagement.
Upon the conclusion of the meeting, the hosts provided the opportunity for someone to win a brand new Apple iPad. The lucky winner's name was announced and her phone line was opened up so everyone could hear her celebrate her good fortune. Although she was quite excited about the iPad, she surprised us more by making the following comment:
"I am so excited to win the iPad, but really what I am excited about is that after listening to my industry peers, I am now looking at my constituents in a whole new way. I've had this all wrong."
Although she invested a good chunk of her day, the ROI on that four hours was huge for her (iPad not withstanding). It's a testament to the power of engaging -- engaging with customers, engaging with peers, and engaging with suppliers.
While nothing compares to the benefits of face-to-face meetings, the technology we now have at our fingertips allows for interactive dialog that leads to such "A-ha!" moments. And other than her time, it didn't cost her a cent.