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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Offline vs. Online Dating Communication

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


Online Dating Communication - Offline or Online?

Is online or offline communication more effective?

Done well, online dating involves both online and offline contact.  To be sure, online dating is a means to an end. Two people are initially introduced electronically, but they subsequently get to know each other using the social tools of dating sites and then eventually meet offline to see if the perceived potential is really there. Offline networks typically can’t compete with the scope and reach of online databases of singles, and online communication can’t compete (or at least fully replace) the interpersonal dynamic of a face-to-face interaction. Ideally, the two complement one another.

These points were recently echoed in a new survey I conducted for the Hospitality and Sales Marketing Association International (HSMAI) group since it wanted to learn about the needs of meeting planners at the 20th Annual HSMAI's Affordable Meetings® National/ETE Conference & Exposition held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C. from September 9 to 10, 2009.

HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings® National is an exposition and conference addressing all aspects of technology as it relates to tradeshows, meetings, and special events. Exhibitors represent hotels and resorts, university conference centers, unique meeting sites, convention and visitor bureaus, transportation companies, trade publications, software and audio/visual businesses, and other meeting and convention suppliers. Prior to the conference we surveyed 265 meeting professionals about their needs and market trends. Their insights are relevant in many ways to online dating.

  • First, in this data age and YouTube generation, one might assume that technology dominates. False! We found that 21% of meeting planning companies hasn’t adopted technologies or software to assist with networking and sales. In fact, nearly 30% of respondents reported that the incorporation of technology is not making their jobs easier. This surprisingly high figure suggests that there are aspects of meeting planning that technology perhaps cannot replace.
  • Second, survey results suggest that technology reportedly does not and cannot replace at least six critical elements of the face-to-face, conference experience: (1) ability to socialize and network spontaneously, (2) helping attendees best put names with faces, (3) more free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters, (4) more effective training via live and personal interaction, (5) greater attention to others when face-to-face and seamless and (6) real-time conversation that isn’t interrupted by technological glitches.
  • Third, there were three specific social events which added strong value and benefit for conference goers: Coffee Breaks, Between Session Networking and Lunch. These are low-cost, casual activities with the biggest bang for the buck.
  • Lastly, more than ever meeting planners are concerned with customer service and responsiveness on the job. Most strive to respond within one hour to any client request (35%) and within one business day at the latest (22%). Likewise, most meeting planners expect their partner vendors or clients to respondto their own requests within one business day (44%). Responsiveness and personalized service is the calling card of today’s success social businesses.

So, what lessons can we draw from this survey to the online dating world?  Online dating is very much a meeting planning process. Here’s how these types of results answer the question of what’s more effective…

  • Use technology whenever feasible to help your search for love, but don’t depend solely on it. Chances are not all eligible singles are as computer savvy as you nor have time to devote to online dating as others. Balance online approaches with offline approaches. 
  • Once you feel a connection with someone online, the goal should be an offline meeting at some point assuming you want a committed relationship rather than some fantasy encounter. This means that you shouldn’t assume you can fully evaluate a person purely from the impressions gained about them online. There are elements to interpersonal connection that technology at present can’t duplicate, much less duplicate. And this also goes for so-called “virtual dating.”
  • Offline communication very well may be more effective when meetings are casual and unstructured. It takes the pressure off on so many levels when early meetings are low key.
  • People respond to responsiveness (say that ten times quickly!)  This means daters shouldn’t play coy or hard to get. Instead, a dater should be upfront, assertive and show interest when there’s interest. Responsiveness shows respect and interest.


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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