In a world where I can keep in touch with friends & peers via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and numerous other online networks, travelling to meet them in person seems rather strange.

And yet, as a trip to Sydney last week showed, there’s still nothing to beat physical contact.

Working in digital marketing, it seems obvious that I would utilise online tools to keep in touch with people in the industry and that travelling to conferences should be a thing of the past.

Despite that, last week saw me paying a flying visit to Sydney to speak at the SMX conference as I feel strongly that meeting people in person is still the best way to build relationships, whether they’re for personal or business reasons.

I can follow someone on Twitter for months, yet learn more about them within 5 minutes of sitting down with them for a beer.

I can blog about the work that we do every day for  month, yet give a better indication of how we think with a live 15 minute presentation.

I can pick up more SEO tips in 20 minutes of networking than I can from a year of browsing blogs.

And I can find hundreds more people to network with, follow or friend, by meeting them in person than I could by scanning the web for hours.

Now all of these may seem like obvious statements but many people seem to think that personal contact can be abandoned in these days of online friends.

Yet in many ways they make it more important. Now that anyone can talk to anyone, and everyone is clamouring for everyone’s attention, one of the best ways to cut through this noise is by taking the time to talk to people face to face.

So if you’re debating whether to attend that conference in the US, or speak at that event in Dublin, my advice would be that you’d be mad not to.

Apart from getting to speak to all these people, in our industry you’ll find that a lot of them will then link back to you; and as building links gets harder and harder, buying someone a beer seems like a small price to pay.

NB: The one thing this post obviously doesn’t consider is the environmental cost of travel. That is something that we all have to make a judgment on individually or as businesses.