When the lockdowns began and all meetings, conferences, and training programs moved online, I knew what to expect, as I had purposefully experimented with virtual programs back in 2015.
After nearly two years with everything virtual, this week was my first in-person gathering. One that gathered together the founders and managers of the 27+ companies of Africa Eats. One that was a gathering of people who mostly had only ever met online in Zoom or in WhatsApp or in email.
Not surprisingly, the in-person gathering was sooooooo much more productive and useful. All the pundits and bloggers who say the office is dead are wrong. The simple truth is there is no substitute for sitting around a table for a discussion, looking eye to eye at the others, seeing each other’s body language, and most of all, having the ability to following those discussions with side conversations before the next session, at the next break, or over the next meal.
And that last step, sharing a meal has no virtual equivalent. Sharing a meal is something humans have been doing to create community for millennia, if not since fire was tamed 1 million years ago.
Meanwhile… I’m not saying virtual has no use. For a lot of conversations email alone is sufficient and for others, Zoom is sufficient. But to get “real” work done, to solve hard problems, and to forge partnerships, we’re going to have to deal with vaccinations and testing so that we can get back together, around the same table, and see each other eye to eye.
(And no, no metaverse is going to solve this issue)