Skip to content

Beyond F2F: Keeping Faith with Serendipity

August 3, 2011

Beyond Face-to-Face:  Keeping Faith with Serendipity

(Conferences, Randomness and Small World Connections)

You’ve heard the face-to-face argument for attending conferences before; it is so common, people simply write F2F and everyone knows what it means.  F2F facilitates more effective human communications, through the building of trust, interpretation of body language (which is up to 93% of all human communication) and even simple eye contact.  All of this is true, and there is a lot of research to back it up.

But here’s another reason conferences/meetings are important.  They reduce the degree of separation between people, facilitating the mobility of ideas globally.  This idea based on Small World Theory; even if you don’t know it by this name, chances are you’ve heard of or played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  This game ties people to actor Kevin Bacon in 6 people or less; Small World Theory holds that most people are connected to other people by about 6 connections.

If you were connected closely to 50 people but no others, the degree of separation between you and others you don’t know is about 60 million (Buchanan, Nexus:  Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks).  If, however, you insert very few random links, the degree of separation can be reduced dramatically to around 5 (Urry, Mobilities).

So here’s my take on the research:  conferences/meetings can act to clump possible random connections together, increasing individuals’ personal connectivity and reducing the degree of separation between them and others.  Social media tools serve to increase the power of these random connections, but chances are, you will connect to someone using social media only after meeting them in person first.

By increasing connectivity, you increase the chances that you will be successful in things like business or finding a job.

Conferences help people “keep faith with serendipity” (I wish I’d made this up, but it was a guy called Roger Collis) by increasing randomness and making our worlds smaller.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2011 5:09 am

    Here’s an interesting exception that might prove a more general rule: The Event Camp series (which makes its triumphant return to Minneapolis August 25-26, http://www.eventcamptwincities.com) grew out of the #eventprofs hashtag, after people spent several months interacting online and realized they wanted to meet in person.

    I still think the flow is just as you’ve described it for the large majority of participants — serendipity creates unexpected conversations onsite, then people exchange email addresses and social media coordinates. But if meetings are about seizing every opportunity to help those connections happen, we should be attentive to other points of contact that might be more comfortable or convenient for different audiences.

  2. August 4, 2011 7:10 am

    Here’s an interesting exception that might prove a more general rule: The Event Camp series (which makes its triumphant return to Minneapolis August 25-26, http://www.eventcamptwincities.com) grew out of the #eventprofs hashtag, after people spent several months interacting online and realized they wanted to meet in person.

    I still think the flow is just as you’ve described it for the large majority of participants — serendipity creates unexpected conversations onsite, then people exchange email addresses and social media coordinates. But if meetings are about seizing every opportunity to help those connections happen, we should be attentive to other points (or sequences) of contact that might be more comfortable or convenient for different audiences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: