Building connection online – is it possible?

Why should I leave the comfort of my home to attend a face-to-face event?

I was convinced that our community’s conference this year (DFTB22) would be the last we’d EVER run.

I was 100% certain that face-to-face events weren’t worth the effort.

Who needs them when you can learn everything online, right?

Conferences cost a fortune to run, especially when you compare them to online events. They take a massive amount of work to make it all flow smoothly.

The returns simply aren’t worthwhile.

Don’t Forget The Bubbles is our community of healthcare professionals that started 10 years ago. It’s the single achievement I am most proud of in my career. It’s a caring, supportive, collaborative, high-quality, educational community.

When COVID hit, we had to postpone DFTB20. Since then, the conference has been a financial millstone around my neck. But then we ran the conference last week.

And I completely changed my mind.

Because seeing our community face-to-face was a thing of beauty.

I now feel:

  • Connected
  • Energised
  • Inspired

I spent last week hanging out with my tribe.

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Dr Ari Horton
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@heartfulpaeds
The final session at #DFTB22 … thanks @DFTBubbles for another incredible few days… bringing us all together… for yet more inspiration! Filling up our cups! Thanks @paedsem @henrygoldstein @andrewjtagg @TessaRDavis and the entire crew! pic.twitter.com/nW3R5jMeiJ
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August 31st 2022
 
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You simply cannot replace that feeling with online content.


Learning in your pyjamas is the best, isn’t it?

And there are so many good things about them:

  • We can do them in our pyjamas
  • We can connect with people globally
  • We are avoiding the travel
  • We can dip in and out
  • They are cheaper
  • Did I mention we can do them in our pyjamas?

It’s easy to slip into thinking that we never need to attend any events in person again.

That’s exactly how I felt.

But I’ve now been to 2 face-to-face conferences post-COVID. They both reminded me of that feeling and buzz that you can only get at a real life event.

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The Bipolar Doc
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@doc_bipolar
I wasn’t present at #DFTB22 but if there’s one thing that is obvious from afar it’s the incredible sense of community amongst the ever growing network of practitioners. So many smiles. A real sense of belonging. That’s what I call success! @DFTBubbles @andrewjtagg @TessaRDavis
August 31st 2022
 
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Jenny Proimos
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@jproimos
My heart is full after three days at #DFTB22. So many thanks to the incredible team for all your thoughtfulness and care in creating such a special conference. @andrewjtagg @henrygoldstein @TessaRDavis @kls_kat @BeckyPlatt3 @IanMeducator @paedsem
August 31st 2022
 
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Isn’t the most effective learning done online?

Our DFTB community hasn’t been able to meet together for three years, and in that time the memories of why I did it faded.

I’d forgotten why the conference was such a special place.

Now, in 2022, 90% of my learning happens online:

  • Reading newsletters and articles
  • Attending online courses
  • Watching videos

There is no doubt that online learning is a killer way to deliver education. In fact, 50% of my life is spent delivering learning content to learners in online platforms.

I am a true Online Learning Believer.

I know that connecting with other people in ONLINE communities is possible. I’ve met some of my closest friends through Don’t Forget The Bubbles on Twitter.

But our relationships are always brought closer when we meet.


We’ve tried different ways of connecting people at our online events:

  • DMs
  • Discord
  • Text chat
  • Speed networking software

They all have a place, and as long you have a committed faculty, you CAN build community this way. But it’s still not the same feeling as seeing each other in person.


Where does this leave us?

It’s easy to forget what life was like pre-pandemic.

I hadn’t ever been on a Zoom meeting or attended a live course online before 2020. Cut to 2022, and we’ve swiftly moved on to believing that this is the only way to learn.

It is ONE way to learn, but it is not THE BEST way to connect.

Let’s remember what we lost during the pandemic – that connection with other humans.

So here’s what I’d ask you to do:

  • Attend at least one in-person conference this year
  • Get back into that awkward feeling of networking, it’s a beautiful thing
  • Recognise that meaningful learning can happen online, but meaningful connection is best done F2F

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