The recent nCino nSight 2022 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, was the first large-scale, in-person event I’ve attended in over two years. Although the presentations at the event were very informative and insightful, (look below for our nSight 2022 key session summary), I’m not going to discuss those here. Instead, I’d like to focus on what happens at events like this before, between and after the official presentations. During the past couple of years we were forced to attend this kind of conference online, where the presentations were all we had. Of course, I’m thankful that we had the technology to keep sharing important updates when we couldn’t travel or gather, but the value of attending a professional event lies just as much in the personal interactions that take place as it does in the scheduled content.
As soon as we found out the nSight event would be live, we recognized the opportunity to bring our geographically diverse team together. For most of us, the return to the office has been slow, and in many cases it still hasn’t really happened. We’ve mainly stayed in our home offices, interacting through our myriad of technology devices. Without halls to wander or frequent work trips, many of us haven’t connected meaningfully with our colleagues and clients in a very long time—too long, if you ask me.
Gathering at this live event with more than 70 of our Accenture commercial banking colleagues (from seven countries!) reminded me of just how incredible these people really are. We began our week with a practice meeting, to reconnect, re-establish the trust we have among our team members, and rebuild our energy and excitement heading into the bigger conference. And the energy was palpable! It was a long-overdue reminder of how it’s the people of Accenture that truly make this a great place to work. I am confident if you were to ask any of our team members who attended nSight 2022, they would describe it as “a morale boost,” among many other accolades.
It’s funny how large a group of more than 70 people feels when you’ve avoided crowds for so long, let alone the more than 1,200 attendees at the full event. You certainly don’t feel that kind of buzz when you gather online. During the event, we felt energized and inspired at the end of each day. It’s hard to feel like that after staring at a monitor for eight hours or more.
When we weren’t attending sessions, we had the opportunity to connect and chat about things that weren’t on a meeting agenda. To share a meal together. To grab an early-morning coffee or nightcap. These moments allowed us to catch up with people who we don’t meet with regularly, and exchange ideas and perspectives that we might otherwise miss out on. This kind of synergy through spontaneous sharing is one of the underappreciated effects of in-person events. We break out of our echo chambers and allow ourselves to be exposed to unscripted opinions and insights. That alone makes attending events worthwhile.
As companies struggle to retain their employees, the chance to grow and thrive in the workplace is becoming even more important. Another advantage of these events is that attendees get a chance to talk with leaders who might seem inaccessible at other times. Hierarchies are broken down over lunch tables or coffee stations, and people feel more comfortable speaking their minds. New ideas can be shared without any formalities. A bright spark has a real chance of being noticed. These kinds of moments have been nearly impossible to capture while gathering remotely. As a leader, I have to wonder how many brilliant ideas I haven’t had the chance to hear over the past two years. After all, innovation and serendipity often go hand in hand.
There are legitimate reasons for continuing to gather remotely right now, whether they relate to budgets, wellness or other factors. But for those who can find a path back to in-person events there is clear upside, and investing our time (and travel budgets) in sending people to those events again is well worth it. I am fortunate that Accenture shares my view, and we were able to gather so many great people together at nSight 2022. I hope that the pandemic has not significantly changed the landscape when it comes to conferences and other live events. Nothing can take the place of meeting face-to-face.
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