I may sound like a baby boomer (I’m actually right on the cusp between boomer and Gen X), but I enjoy working the room and getting to know people at meetings. There’s a memory that attaches itself to a live encounter—good or bad—that’s impossible to create online.

That’s why Editor Sue Pelletier’s interview with Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation LLC, on page 17, resonated with me—not as much for what he said, but for how she kept challenging him. De Cagna spent much of the discussion defending people using their BlackBerrys to tweet or check e-mail during meetings, and Sue kept repeating the question:

“If they’re checked out, or even if they’re communicating with someone about the content of the meeting, how can they be paying attention?

I don’t travel across the country to spend my time at a coffee break searching for a friendly face that isn’t buried in a BlackBerry (or worse yet, for the ones who don’t even bother with the breaks any more and rush over to score a spot at the wireless cafe). I don’t attend seminars to watch everyone around me clicking away on their laptops. And, sorry, I know that people tweet at meetings, but they’re still a tiny minority in our industry. Most of the meeting managers I know just enjoy making fun of the name (“Do you tweet, or twitter, or twit?”)

I agree with De Cagna that social networks can be priceless in gearing meeting content to attendees, soliciting feedback in real time, and keeping the conversation going afterward with an online group. But that’s where it ends for me—I prefer that the people in the room with me are actually there.

Our cover story explores another way social networking is changing our jobs—by creating a rich group of contacts on LinkedIn and other sites for people who are looking for work. LinkedIn allows you to approach industry friends—and friends of friends—to share information about yourself, seek advice, and get connected to the right people in your search. If you haven’t joined, I highly recommend it.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, listservs, Google groups. Just like all the e-mails clogging our inboxes, we can’t possibly get to them all. And when they start to interfere with the idea-sharing, relationship-building, and spontaneity of a live meeting, I say they’re no longer online tools, they’re a roadblock to productive meetings.

For More Info

See Association Meetings’ take on social media: Social Media: What Meeting Planners Need to Know.

From the Conference Publishers Inc.’s Mitchell Beer: Social Media: The Killer App?

Columnist Jim Spellos on Twitter