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Mary Lynn Fayoumi

Online vs. In-Person 

By Mary Lynn Fayoumi, CAE, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, President & CEO
Published November 29, 2022

This article, authored by Mary Lynn, was written for and published by the Daily Herald on 11/17/2022.

HR Source recently held our first major in-person conference in three years. While hosting educational events is something our organization has been doing for decades, the pandemic had a chilling effect on large gatherings.

Less than a week before another record-breaking event that we had scheduled in March 2020, Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared that it would not be legal to proceed as planned.

Since then, our team (like millions of others around the world) has become amazingly adept at delivering training programs virtually through Zoom and other platforms. Although we continue to receive very positive feedback from our virtual attendees, it simply can't compare to what attendees experienced at our recent Employment Law Conference.

I'm admittedly a bit biased as the president and CEO of HR Source, and I'm also basking in the glow of a successful program, but I still believe I'm objective enough to analyze the merits of virtual vs. in-person events from a business perspective.

While the state of Illinois lifted restrictions for large events long ago, our team repeatedly weighed the pros and cons of transitioning our major conferences back to in-person events. In fact, we chose to hold off until we felt the pandemic was mostly in the rearview mirror so our participants would feel safe about mixing and mingling.

As a mission-based, nonprofit association, providing education to our member employers on human resources, compensation, employment law and organizational development is a critical component of our value proposition. Building and nurturing a strong community through offering networking opportunities is also vital to supporting employers.

As we have learned during the past few years, both education and networking can be effectively achieved without being in the same room. Technology has enabled a plethora of ways to connect, interact, learn and collaborate without leaving the comfort of our homes or offices. Still, I would argue, it's simply not the same and, in many cases, not as effective.

Consider a few snippets from our conference that you may very well have experienced yourself at in-person events you've attended.

Smiles and laughter
It was gratifying to observe people reconnecting after a long absence and sharing updates on their personal and professional lives. The exchange of positive feedback and compliments was uplifting.

Aha! Moments
During the keynote speeches and breakout sessions, it was wonderful to see heads nodding, faces lighting up and people taking notes to ensure important take-aways were not forgotten.

New connections
Whether people were waiting in line for a professional headshot, grabbing a cup of coffee or discussing their challenges with one of our Provider Partners, it was satisfying to watch people exchange business cards (some people still do that), shake hands (or elbow bump) or schedule time to connect in the future.

I could easily wax poetic on all the other ways our in-person conference was significantly more rewarding than any virtual event could ever be (and trust me, I've attended scores). However, I'm aware not everyone shares my view, for a variety of legitimate reasons, including health, financial and logistical concerns.

Fortunately, we now live in a time that affords many options from a vast array of providers and technology platforms that can make the online experience satisfactorily effective. HR Source will continue to offer a mix of both options to meet the needs of Illinois' employers.

But I guarantee no one ever logged off their Zoom meeting feeling as good as our "live and in-person" participants did when they left our event.