There’s value in virtual relationships

I’ve had a lot of meetings lately, first time meetings, as I continue my discovery process of where I might volunteer. It’s been an interesting and rewarding process. I’ve met more people and a wider range of folks than ever before, and the reception I get is always open and positive. So different from business!

But what surprises me is the divide in the approach to meetings. It is clear that folks from a certain generation and particular background absolutely depend on the first meeting being face-to-face. They want to size you up, see what you’re about and look you in the eye while they’re doing it.

Typical dialogue

Them: So how to did you get referred to us.

Me: Nancy told me all about your organization and it sounded interesting.

Them: So where did you meet Nancy?

Me: Actually I’ve never met her. My blog showed up on her Google reader and she liked some of the things I was writing about. We had a couple of chats by email exchanging some good ideas, and your organization was one of them.

Them: Isn’t that something!

(That’s nothing compared to the online research I would have done on the organization, its people and partners, and the competition.)

I’m the former web goddess and totally okay with a first meeting via email, text, phone, conference call, Facebook or anything similar. In fact, I’m okay with virtual relationships.

They are not bound by geography, not limited by dates and times and so fit very nicely into a time starved world. They also allow me to efficiently reach far more people and expertise that I might not otherwise have access to. And all this happens at the speed of the internet, hastening my progress in getting things done.

It doesn’t allow for the depth of human connection that a face-to-face meeting has but the tradeoffs are there. The question is when to use each approach. For those of you who live online, consider breaking the pattern and meeting in person over a meal, even if you have to get on an airplane to do it. And for those that assume a relationship has to start with a face-to-face, take a cue from online dating and start with an email (and some Google research).

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