Gordon Crovitz' column in today's Wall Street Journal has the second phrase in quotes above as its headline. The first is Chris Peterson's summary of the key findings of positive psychology. Mr. Crovitz notes that rising number and attendance at business conferences, and focuses on the D: All Things Digital Conference sponsored by the Journal's Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. The point is that even the leading lights in technology like to get together in person. I would have enjoyed hearing Bill Gates talk to a crowd around an outdoor table about his efforts to improve American high schools and eliminate malaria in Africa!
In another interesting aspect, the conference bans PowerPoint presentations! Instead, panelists and questioned, intensively and persistently, by the organizers and attendees. As an educational strategy, I like it. I've become a bigger user of PowerPoint as I give more presentations, but I struggle with it. I try hard to use it as a visual aid to a story, not my personal notes about what to say next. And that makes creating a presentation MUCH harder. Right now, I'm working on a 30-minute presentation on Positive Psychology and Law that will be recorded for delivery online. Yikes! That's tough! I'm focusing on the interactive tools I will have available.
Distance learning, telecommuting, and webinars are all great. But, I suspect that as we learn, work, and meet more with folks who are physically distant from us, the desire to get together with them in person occasionally will grow. Other people matter, and their avatars are insufficient as a complete substitute.