Numbers and stories. Those are two schools of thought when it comes to research. There is the quantitative-only camp, those who only measure the size of the prize, and there are those who invest in the whole person, not just the size. Those of us who invest in qualitative research tend to be more empathic, intuitive and creative. We may have more fun too.

At two of the industry conferences I attended this year – Qual 360 in DC and Quirks in Brooklyn – there continues to be a lot of discussion about the value of qualitative research in the world of big data, and the pros and cons of online versus face-to-face. The industry consensus is that we need all of them. I agree, because I know from thousands of conversations and meetings, that everyone benefits from in-person encounters.

When people ask me why I believe so wholeheartedly in in-person research, I ask them if they’ve ever done any online dating – because there are a lot of similarities.

Online is only the first step 

Identifying, finding and accessing people online is cost and time effective. We can do it 24/7 in the comfort of our own home or office, and in our pajamas if we want to. There are plenty of sites and apps to initiate contact. Online is where we play the numbers game and start the weeding out process. There are billions of interesting people online. Online is the most effective way to start the process.

Talking live is essential 

Once we’ve identified people of interest, we need to know more about them to make the informed decision of are they right for us – whether it be for our research or our dating lives. The fastest and easiest way to do that is to pick up the phone to have a live conversation and hear their voice. The phone call tells us enough about a person to know if we want to include them in our research or meet them for a first date. Not only do we learn a lot by listening to their voice – how they sound and speak – but with good questions we can determine if they have the skills, strengths, and characteristics we’re looking for. The other important piece that we learn from a call is to listen to our instincts and intuition. Is there “something” there that intrigues us, interests us, has us set aside our checklist and agree to meet with them. Or vice versa – they check all the boxes but don’t make the cut.

Meeting in person is the real deal

In-person meetings are how we decide if things move to the next level, or they don’t. More becomes clear – sometimes in an instant. It’s why more than 50% of people believe in love at first sight. If you want to know someone’s truth, if you want to know if this is someone you want in your business or your dating life, meet in person.  We humans are hardwired for this. We are social, relational and we rely on all of our senses to make good decisions. We rarely correctly envision what a person looks like from their written word or voice. What does the look in their eye and on their face say about them? What does their body language tell us? In person is how we get to the heart of the matter, and each other.

In-person experiences are where the heart of research is.

If you are – or know – a great single guy, spare me the trouble of weeding through the digital world and introduce me.