As part of our #fduCONNECT theme for 2019, our second guest blog by David Burton continues his exploration of  the differences between virtual and actual media in business, and how connection in real life still delivers more than virtual connection in most instances.

Virtual or Actual Media in Business: What is the Real Difference? Part 2

This is the second of my four guest blogs where each focuses on one difference between virtual and actual media in a business context. In my experience, the growth of virtual business communications has normalised some behaviours that can distance people from each other, may weaken trust relationships and potentially dilute established business practices to the extent that some markets have become distorted.

The first difference discussed last time was virtual media’s illusion of progress.

Difference 2: Personal Relationships Can Become Impersonal

Having many connections may only create the appearance of being well connected.

Your virtual media platforms may contain friends or connections you’d be hard placed to recognise if you were in the same room.  Business connections are most valuable if they stay warm and you maintain periodic contact. Virtual media, especially social media, makes online conflict much more likely than actual media, where people under stress or confronting differing opinions, can write things they’d never say to somebody with whom they were in conversation. In my experience, virtual media in a business context is useful to set up actual human interactions but does not replace them.

This brings me to the importance of attending networking events, or creating your own network interactions, especially if you work in a small or medium sized business.

Having worked in interim management for many years, I’ve found networking events to be an important way of staying in touch with colleagues or meeting new people. The foundation of a good network is the relationships you develop, but it’s more important that you consider these as long-term connections. This applies equally in your business where meeting with your colleagues builds a stronger relationship than emailing them.

However, if you only use your network when you need something, then the networking relationship can end up being one sided and of little value to the other party.

The right approach to networking is not to carry unrealistic expectations into any meeting or event. You are usually there to meet like-minded people, build professional peer relationships, garner opinion on an issue or discuss business situations with customers or suppliers in a specific sector. Building an active business network will take time, and don’t expect immediate results, they are generally secondary outcomes of people explaining and empathising with a situation, and then wanting to help because they understand your perspective. This cannot easily be achieved through virtual media.

There is no adequate substitute for creating and building business relationships on a one to one basis, it just takes extra effort.

About the Author: David Burton is an experienced Group Finance Director with particular interest in business environments requiring turnaround or improvement. He has exercised governance or oversight over core Finance functions and operational delivery, including implementation of improved business processes, developing Global Operating Standards, setting group IT strategy, building a commercially viable SAAS portfolio and GDPR as a Data Protection Officer with experience of achieving ISO27001 certification. As a business partner to his fellow board members, David provides colleagues with usable advice and decision support acquired from timely & accurate MI, or managing business improvement interventions.