Face-to-face in a digital world

synchronous-vs-asynchronous-Today I attended the CIPR’s first PR Show in London. And what an experience! I’ve organised events (in my previous incarnation as a PR practitioner) all around the world, for audiences in the tens of thousands, with keynote speakers including Ministers (even “Prime” Ministers!). But I rarely get the opportunity to attend one as a delegate, so this was a welcome opportunity to see things from the other side.

I have no doubt that there will be lots of discussions about how the event can be improved. But one thing stuck out in my mind. I met face-to-face a number of people that I had only ever “known” before on social media. And it was fascinatingly BETTER.

I had a brief twenty minute conversation with Stephen Waddington- the CIPR president elect for 2014, and Ketchum’s Digital guru about an event we are collaborating on next March. I came away enthused by his enthusiasm. And no amount of exclamation marks or emoticons can do the same thing- make a real, genuine commitment on a person to person basis.

When I first arrived at the event I was surprised at how quiet it was. The stands were manned, and there were plenty of visitors- but a surprising number of people were standing around looking intently at their phones- hooked into twitter, and e mails and phone calls with clients. It took a while…but by 3pm the place was positively humming with people talking, exchanging ideas, making connections.

And how stimulating that is! I came away from the event buzzing with ideas about new things to explore and try, new contacts to see where we can work together.  And I was also there to help my twenty or so PR students, both MA and BA undergraduates experience an event not only as a participant but also take the opportunity to do some critical analysis and reflect on the power of personal contact in a world that is increasingly intermediated by social media.

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About catherinesweet
Academic, professional, communicator, stakeholder in a dozen different disguises

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