3 Reasons Why Your Online Community Needs To Meet In-Person

Meeting Barack Obama for the first time wasn’t the most nerve-wracking part of my day. 

Jill and Aire’s friendship solidified after an activity they did during their fourth virtual success meeting through an organization called The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). The two kept nodding in agreement as if they were of one mind. They had the same thought process and similar perspectives. After the meeting, Aire sent Jill a direct message to keep talking about life, careers, and personal challenges. It was clear this was the start of a lifelong friendship. 

The two kept talking and connecting as the weeks went on, but the energy wasn’t the same as in the beginning. Life got in the way, and one of them would postpone or cancel the meeting. While they both felt a deep connection, they knew something was missing because they only knew each other through a computer screen. They knew they needed to meet in person.

Thankfully, NSLS hosts monthly in-person Speaker Broadcasts around the country, and it just so happened there was one coming up that was only a few hours from both Jill and Aire. The speaker was going to be Barack Obama! The two made plans to attend in person. They talked about meeting almost every day with equal parts excitement and nervousness. They even joked about the possibility of being cat-fished by each other.

The Speaker Broadcast day finally arrived. Finally, the two internet besties were about to meet in person for the first time. As planned, the two showed up early, and within seconds of entering the room, they locked eyes and went in for a huge hug. They both laughed and even teared up, knowing that the other was real and they had finally connected in person.

While meeting Barack Obama in person was a joy, the day’s real highlight was Jill and Aire meeting each other face-to-face. From that moment, they re-energized their friendship and commitment to learning and growing through NSLS.

NSLS has hundreds of thousands of members all over North America, and 90% of its programming is virtual. However, they host a speech once a month where members can meet each other, connect with famous speakers, and win prizes in person. The result of these Speaker Broadcasts is always an increased engagement and connectedness among the members who attend. 

The virtual meetings were great, and they kept the connections going, but it’s nothing compared to what happened during the in-person events.

If you have a virtual community, there has to be an in-person event occasionally to solidify the connections and relationships between members. We call these types of face-to-face events, Anchor Events.

Here are three advantages of having an anchor event: 

There is an increase in energy between members:

Let’s face it, there are a couple of factors that can interfere with virtual meetings, poor connectivity, technical glitches, distractions, etc. When members meet in person, they can engage in more physical activities and actual human interactions like laughing, hugging, or simply high-fiving each other. This energy is different from what you get online without physical contact.

There is an increase in social connections:

Members might find it difficult to connect or bond with other members they haven’t met, and you can’t blame them because it takes a lot to build trust. However, people can scale their relationships, meet new people, and bond better when they regularly connect in person. 

There is an increase in members’ commitment to the community: 

The excitement of having an in-person event to look forward to and getting to experience human interactions with other members of the community increases members’ commitment. In addition, the amount of engagement always goes up after an in-person event. It seems the social capital that builds up during an in-person event is what keeps each member highly engaged virtually afterward until the next event.

It is extremely difficult to engage a community long-term if it’s only virtual. Even people in long-distance relationships yearn for the day they would be united and plan to be together to have an in-person experience. If you want your community to remain engaged, try introducing a hybrid structure just like the NSLS community, where members get to experience each other in person during an Anchor Event.

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