The Need for In-Person Community

Viva Explorers at ESPC23Returning from #ESPC23 in Amsterdam at mid-day yesterday, I wanted to provide a quick summary of the event, but first wanted to say a few words about the importance of in-person (as opposed to online-only) community. In an era where likes, shares, and retweets are the currency of interaction, I’m here to champion the cause of real-life, face-to-face connections. Why? Because there’s an irreplaceable energy in physical interactions that no pixel can replicate.

Here are some thoughts on the topic:

1. The Warmth of a Smile: Beyond Pixels

Sure, emojis are cute, but can they match the warmth of a genuine smile? When we meet in person, subtle cues like body language, tone of voice, and eye contact enrich our interactions. They foster trust, deepen relationships, and create a sense of belonging. In the digital realm, even with the most advanced algorithms, we miss these nuances.

2. Building Stronger Bonds

Online communities are incredible for reaching global audiences. But think about this: How many of your online connections would you recognize on the street? In-person gatherings, from local meetups to international conferences, transform digital handshakes into firm, physical ones, forging stronger, more meaningful bonds.

3. The Serendipity Factor

Have you ever bumped into someone at a coffee shop and ended up having a life-changing conversation? Such serendipitous encounters are rare online. Physical spaces foster spontaneous interactions, leading to unexpected opportunities and collaborations.

4. Balancing Digital with Physical

I’m not advocating for abandoning our digital lives. Instead, let’s strike a balance. Use digital tools to facilitate and enhance in-person interactions. Leverage social media to organize meetups, or follow up on connections made at events.

While our online communities are invaluable, let’s not forget the power of a handshake, the impact of a shared laugh, and the potential of a face-to-face conversation. As we navigate this digital era, let’s rekindle the human touch, one in-person interaction at a time.

Now, as for my quick wrap-up on #ESPC23…

My week in Amsterdam can be summarized into 7 things:

#TeamRencore at ESPC231. Booth time with #TeamRencore

Having attended a couple hundred conferences in my lifetime (I haven’t added them up, but in 30+ years in tech, I’m probably being conservative on the count) I still enjoy spending time in the booth, especially when there is great team culture and friendship. I was friends with many of the team before joining Rencore early this year, and we get along great, making customer interactions and handoffs to peers easy. We had a team of 9 at ESPC23, and the booth was almost constantly busy. Of course, talking about the product is easy when you win Most Innovative Product (at ESPC22) and Best Governance Solution (Redmond Magazine 2023). If you’ve not yet seen Rencore Governance, check it out!

2. Interviewing the Keynotes

For several years now, I’ve been conducting many of the official ESPC post-keynote interviews, this year with Jeff Teper, Karuana Gatimu, and Rafal Lukawiecki. When the ESPC video summaries are released and Jeff, Karuana, and Rafal are talking to someone off-camera about the event, their topic, and the community, that would be behind the camera. But I did manage to catch a selfie with each after our interviews.

#ESPC23 Keynotes

ESPC23 Community Reporters Booth3. The Community Reporters Booth

From the keynote interviews, I quickly scrambled over to the Community Reporters booth in the expo hall, where I conducted post-keynote panel discussions, which are always fun and interesting. I’ll be posting links to the YouTube videos as soon as the ESPC team posts them, so check back to the blog for updates. This was, I believe, my 4th year in helping run the Community Reporters alongside Maarten Visser, Tracy van der Schyff, Chirag Patel, and Michael Greth (who missed the event due to illness but was helping with production remotely), and I can honestly say that it is one of my favorite things to do at ESPC. I especially love meeting new speakers and tapping into their passions about technology. Of course, it’s also a great opportunity to talk with old and new friends, fellow speakers, and experts from around the world.

I love #ESPC234. TekkiGurus Interviews

As we did last year from Copenhagen, TekkiGurus conducted a series of interviews during the event, as well. Fellow MVP Knut Relbe-Moe and I conducted about a dozen interviews that will be published on the TekkiGurus site over the next few weeks. If you have not already signed up, go check it out. Built by the community, for the community, TekkiGurus provides free content and community news covering the entire Microsoft stack but focused primarily on Microsoft 365, Viva, and Copilot.

ESPC23 Inspire Stage5. Inspire Stage Session on Technology Evangelism

I had one session this year on one of my favorite topics: Technology Evangelism. I shared my thoughts on the importance of the role, and how it can take many shapes and forms within your organization. I’m going to blog about it tomorrow and share some of the insights from my session, so come back and read more tomorrow.

Winning the ESPC23 Inspire Award for Best Podcast - CollabTalk Podcast6. Winning the Inspire Award for Best Podcast

I was shocked, humbled, and honored to win the Inspire Award for Best Podcast. I put a lot of time and love into my podcast and have been seeing the numbers grow month after month, but when I saw that I was a finalist again Steven Hansleman’s podcast, which he has been doing for over 18 years, I thought there was no way I would win. And yet I did. So grateful to the judges, and for everyone who supports and listens to the show!

Post ESPC23 exploration of Amsterdam7. Seeing so many friends

And then the cherry on top of all of the great activity was the time with friends and colleagues from around the world. As I started this blog post, you cannot undervalue the importance of in-person community. Many of these people I only see online throughout the year, and maybe once or twice in person, and we try to make the most of it. At the Rencore booth, we joked about how each time I ventured away from the booth to grab a soda, it could take 30-45 minutes to get back because I saw one or two familiar faces and got swept up in conversations. The biggest value I get out of attending these events is the networking.

ESPC remains my favorite conference of the year, and I’m planning to return to Stockholm next December for #ESPC24. Already looking forward to it!

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (, leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.

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  1. December 14, 2023

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