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The future of meetings

Recent 'hybrid meeting in Brag (sorry for my poor lack of photography skills).

Its meeting time again. After a year and three quarters with no work travel this month I have three project meetings and a conference. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand there is no doubts that Zoom (or even worse Microsoft Teams) des not replace face to face contact. As we all know, the real knowledge and ideas come from the gaps in the meeting and the evening discussions. Learning is at the end of the day a social activity. And we are social animals - I have missed seeing my many friends for different countries during the pandemic and lockdowns. But from the other side, travel is tiring, expensive and can exclude those with childcare responsibilities. One of the best things to happen in the last couple of years has been the opening up of webinars and conferences online - allowing participation for those who have not got a generous budget for travel and conference fees. Just as important is the environmental and climate change issues. Even the European Commission is now urging participants in programmes like Erasmus + to take active measure to reduce the carbon footprint of their projects.

So we need some kind of 'new normal'. I hope the online presentations and conferences are here to stay - at least in a hybrid form if not totally on line. The recent project meeting I attended in Braga was hybrid, with half the partners participating face to face and the other half online. And it worked surprisingly well. I suspect we are going to see more such meetings in the future. But the big lesson I think is that we have to make sure there is real value added from face to face meetings. That means clearing the administrative junk out (that can be done online). And it means better preparation for those meetings to ensure that real learning and knowledge exchange takes place.

Tomorrow we host our first international meeting in Valencia to take place in over two and a half years. I'm looking forward to meeting up with old and new friends.

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