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Thoughts on Going Virtual, Marsha Flanagan, M.Ed.

IAEE’s VP of Learning Experiences Marsha Flanagan, M.Ed. relays her thoughts on why we should embrace going virtual.

By Marsha Flanagan, M.Ed., Vice President of Learning Experiences, IAEE

Flanagan_Marsha 2016People have been communicating, passing down key knowledge to one another through time and space since the dawn of time. I was recently reminded of this while helping my 7th grader learn about the Rosetta Stone, which was inscribed with three versions of a decree issued in Egypt on behalf of King Ptolemy in 196 BC. From the industrial age with the invention of simple computing machines to today’s technology including the internet and numerous digital tools, knowledge transfer can now happen virtually.

Virtual learning and virtual events have been mainstream for over 20 years. What’s making people nervous now? It’s the primary, if not only way people are now able to connect. You see, humans are driven to be connected to one another. We thrive, survive, and need each other.

Going virtual shouldn’t be scary. The approach in designing a learning activity or business event whether live or virtual are the same. The importance of thoughtful program design can be heightened but it’s important to make sure the desired outcomes are always top of mind. Changing the delivery method doesn’t mean you change the desired results.

Selecting a company to help you achieve your virtual needs is no different than selecting any other vendor. Preparing an RFP that clearly states your goals and objectives is key to ensure your needs are met as going virtual for many is outside of their core competencies. New partnerships will be formed in addition to and not in replacement of current partnerships.

Science tells us that our brains are wired for face-to-face. An experiment done by researchers at the University of Chicago and Harvard found that negotiators who shook hands were more open and honest, and reached better outcomes. Shaking hands causes the centers of the brain associated with rewards to activate. You are literally conveying warmth. Years of CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) research support specifics for our industry.

With powerful scientific research on the power of face-to-face, don’t be afraid of virtual. Deep breaths, slow thoughts and embrace it – face-to-face and virtual can co-exist together. Remember to approach virtual the same as face-to-face with business objectives top of mind. Virtual can extend the life of your learning, your services or your products. It provides learners or customers the opportunity to revisit content or shop products autonomously. Remember, virtual will not replace the handshake. : )

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