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Why are we still going to conferences?

There is a great blog post on Creating Passionate Users titled “Face-to-face trumps Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, Videos.” Kathy Sierra asks – why are we still going to conferences when we now have social networking technology to allow us to meet online?

She writes, “The point is, face-to-face still matters. And in fact all our globally-connecting-social-networking tools are making face-to-face more, not less desirable. Thanks to the tools y’all are building, we now have more far-flung friends–including people we’ve never met f2f–than ever before. We now have more people we want to connect with in the human world, often after years of electronic-only contact.” … “Bottom line: Face-to-Face matters, and the more people we meet online, the more people we now want to connect with offline.”

She also notes that the most underrated benefit of face-to-face conferences is INSPIRATION. I agree. Even though I really like being able to use email, IM and other online tools to cut down the number of meetings I have to attend, there is something envigorating about attending a conference that you don’t get from online meetings. I frequently come back from conferences motivated to start new projects or try new methods. Sometimes the inspiration comes from the programs and sometimes from talking with other attendees between programs.

Next month I’m going to Ball State University’s annual copyright conference in Indiana. I usually keep up-to-date on copyright law through reading blogs, web posts, and case law, but when I read about copyright, it rarely inspires or motivates me! The Ball State conference, on the other hand, is inspiring because there are 100 other people in the room who are, if not “passionate” about copyright law, at least interested in learning more and talking about where the law is going and its effect on libraries and education.

All that being said, I’m still in favor of investigating new avenues for online meetings and training. It would be great if we had the time and money to travel for all of our training and meeting needs, but that isn’t feasible with our libraries’ budgets and time constraints. In her post Kathy writes, “Perhaps one day in the future, the technology will finally catch up with real-life and we’ll get the same brain/health benefits from a non-real-world experience.”

Maybe Second Life, or a similar tool, will be able to fill that need for some library meetings and training in the future? But even if it does, I hope we’ll still be getting together for face-to-face conferences.