The disappearance of the in person random meeting

by Jun 30, 2020

Not everyone it would appear misses the in person random meeting!


The chance encounter that could be pivotal in your business or career has disappeared, how you are coping with the limited contact?


One of the major downsides of lock down for me at least has been the disappearance of the in person random meeting. The chance encounter that could be pivotal in your business or career. It might be running into someone in a coffee shop, joining a newcomer in the staff cafeteria, having a drink in a conference, or passing an old colleague you haven’t seen for years in a corridor.

in person random meeting

Confinement has made most of our communication intentional. There are lots of advantages to that. It can be more time efficient and effective. It can be more thoughtful and constructive. But what has happened with social distancing is that it has taken a way completely, not only our opportunity to be with people we know well, but people we don’t know at all.

Chance meetings are a key component of networking. So how are we coping? I went into what I call a “lock down low” about 10 days ago. I am an extrovert who can manage periods on her own, but 12 weeks of limited contact was getting to be a bit much. A trip to the garden centre was a significant outing and when I was invited to my first face to face, socially distanced professional meeting last week, in my confinement head it was a “MAJOR event.” I have perfected my mask-kara. I have been seen waving manically to total strangers across the street when they took their confinement exercise. I put perfume on before Zoom meetings! ….Don’t ask.

So who is with me on the question of the in person random meeting? I asked my network on LinkedIn in what became an interesting stream.

Definitely missing random meetings

Sarah Johnston, The Briefcase Coach and I are on the same page “I miss them so much. I’m also an extrovert (I make friends on the elevator). Virtual is just not the same.” We are joined by Robert A Wood a Financial Services professional said ” I hosted my 5th Zoom meeting last night and cannot wait to see these people in person.”

Richard Seel  M.D. Delaware invented a new term for excessive online meetings:” The sooner we can get back to face to face meetings and human interaction, the sooner I’ll recover from a bad case of ZOOMITOUS, the continuous starting at the screen a foot away!”

Yugadeesh Kumar a customer service professional  commented “I miss being outside networking with people. Though there are many virtual events happening, it doesn’t give the spontaneity that comes from the random meetings which I had in the past. ”  He added  “But it’s all about adapting to change and I believe LinkedIn is a great platform to build relationships in these unprecedented times.”

Meg Giuseppe, Job Search Strategist laments “For sure, I miss the random meetings, Dorothy. I find that the times I do go out among people, everyone is trying to get their business done quickly, and get back home. People rarely even make eye contact. ” Nevertheless Meg is grateful for the phone and digital meetings we can so easily have now. 

Kevin D. Turner, Personal Brand Strategist, told me “There is something special about an person random meeting and I feel most miss this interaction.” 

But maybe not!

No change

For those who focus on the digital space the in person random meeting disappearing from their lives, seemed less significant. What they do is have random online contact. For Andy Foote, LinkedIn expert, life has not changed much. “My chance meeting ‘schedule’ is much the same – I still have a lot of people following me and paying a visit to my profile page, and I follow back and visit them in return (if I see a fit/reason) and I still commune with random people who have taken the time to comment on my content, re-share it or tag me, no change really Dorothy 🙂

Mic Adam, LinkedIn Trainer also tells us how random meetings also overflow to digital. “When someone comments that gives you the opportunity to start that conversation and can be seen as a random meeting. Alerts lead to random meetings. We need to have to reflex of calling, zooming, teams-ing (if that is a word) with that person. Look at the opportunity and not the thing that is missing. It will come back soon”

Tony Restell, Social Media Marketer “Sales Navigator is a half-decent substitute Dorothy. Although it’s not “chance” because you pre-select people who are your primary leads, the random daily selection of prospects posts you could comment on gives you each day a chance to spark those “security check conversations” you’re missing!

Other solutions

Saniya Waghray Product Evagelist “I miss it too, as an extrovert myself. I love though for becoming a resource in this space – takes a bit to bite the bullet and embrace the discomfort of meeting new folks virtually, but really facilitates that spontaneous connection a little more than our natural virtual environments would!”

Matthew Sekol did more than that. When he heard someone lamenting this from the perspective of internal chance meetings he built a low-code/no-code tool that mimics the experience. People sign up and then others can connect on a common interest or just randomly connect in a 15-minute meeting during whatever hour of the day they choose. Anybody can download the code and modify it for their own use.

in person random meeting

Going forward

Mark C. Crowley, Leadership speaker and transformation coach has a message of caution which I share. Be careful what you wish for. Many people have been campaigning for a work from home option for a long time. But what they are looking for is choice. “For all the bluster about us all going to work remotely permanently after a successful test during COVID, the truth is human beings need connection (heart-to-heart) with other people in order to thrive. And organizations (as Steve Jobs knew) perform better & innovate more when people work together. Those feelings of loneliness we get when being alone is also nature’s way of saying, “You need to go and be with other people.”  We likely will get more opportunities to work remotely — but caveat emptor to anyone who believes it’s a sustainably good way of working long term — that is unless you otherwise have a huge and consistent social network outside of work.”

This COVID19 time-out has also served to remind us of the things we took for granted and will perhaps value more. Karen Gordon C.F.O “I think we are going to view these unplanned meetings in a different light going forward. Our in-person meetings will take on a higher value in the future.” 

Kevin Turner gives us a final note ” Sometimes we foolishly do not realize what it is that we appreciate the most until it is gone or taken away from us. Hopefully soon it will be back. As my city slowly opens back up, I have noticed so many more people are enjoying simple things like waving and nodding to strangers, talking with a little more kindness and connectivity, or walking the neighbourhoods in mass like cars didn’t exist. Perhaps this is all a test to help us evaluate what really matters.”

“Are we passing or failing?”

Good question Kevin.

I was also interested to find out that Microsoft Teams offer a bot Icebreaker to pair random colleagues in an organisation. In the meantime, while we are more focused on a virtual environment, that could be a good alternative.

Don’t worry if you’ve been out of the loop for a while. We’ve got you covered with Getting Back on the Networking Horse.


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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