Of course, the reality of network marketing is that we need not choose between creating a virtual community or an in-person, "live" organization. Throughout the process of prospecting, approaching, presenting, sponsoring, training, mentoring, coaching, having fun, building relationships and serving others, we can choose to employ online and in-person modes synergistically. We may choose the exact proportion that is appropriate in our organization, for our product and direct selling strategy. That said, the debate rages over the proportion that is best at each stage.

Is it critical to assess this relative importance wisely? It can be. A few years ago, during the national affliction with Internet mania, some went overboard in their zeal to utilize the Internet. And they went, well...overboard (splash)! The attrition of online systems and products has caused some to predict that the pendulum will swing wildly back to face-to-face business-building systems.

How do we get perspective on this debate?

When does the member of an organization develop a sense of community? Consider that it starts with the first contact, then develops continuously thereafter. Naturally, the first few months and years of childhood are vital in establishing a person's sense of family. Similarly, the initial experiences a new member has with a sponsor and an organization are crucial in developing a sense of community. Could that partially explain why members who are enrolled in face-to-face presentations and initial trainings have higher retention rates than those who sign themselves up online?

Just as long distance romances tend to be problematic, the bonding among organizational members who do not see, touch and experience each other in person is relatively weak. So, when members join our organizations online, how do we compensate for their initial impersonal experience? How do we add the personal touch? The current answer, until online video gets established, is telephone conference calls, trainings, Q & A sessions, guest speakers, and the like.

In the past eight months, we have used a state-of-the-art, integrated online/telephone business-building system. At the outset, in designing this system, our vision was a marriage between the online/telephone system and traditional person-to-person events and experiences. We recently had our second national live training event, specifically for the "virtual community." While national live events in our industry are always incredible, this event was especially heartfelt by all in attendance. I have never before seen an audience devote themselves with such rapt attention. There was extraordinary passion and involvement.

Attendees of live events feel, see and experience the power of the "high touch" added to the "high tech." Can one imagine being born into and growing up solely within a virtual family (notwithstanding the long hours adolescents spent online these days)? Case closed.


was the featured Master Networker in the August 2003 edition of Networking Times.