Is Face to Face Communication a Dying Art? I hope not!

There is the old saying that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. I continue to believe this to be true. When I reflect on my own business and personal life, I always feel a deeper connection and comfort level with someone I have met in person or spoken to over the phone.

I started in business over 20 years ago, and a fundamental component of building a business relationship was through in-person meetings. Whether at conferences, trade shows, or lunch meetings, meeting in-person played a vital role in creating and maintaining healthy, long-term partnerships.Often, the stronger the relationship, the more profitable it becomes, and there’s frequently the added bonus of a lasting friendship. For years now, I’ve felt that society has become too comfortable communicating and connecting from behind a digital wall. I worry that our dependence on technology and the fact that it’s so simple to hide behind it leads to face-to-face meetings becoming a thing of the past. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp, texting, and email have become convenient replacements for in-person meetings or phone calls. 

While I can appreciate the ease of communication technology offers, especially as a busy small business owner, I reached a point earlier this year, where I started to dread phone and Zoom calls. I don’t like the fact that I hear the phone ring and sigh deeply, thinking, “I don’t have time to talk to anybody right now.” What? – you don’t have time to speak to an actual person who has taken the time to call you? Why? Because, like much of society, I have convinced myself that I am too busy answering an email that just came in 5 minutes ago. Or, I think that I am too busy keeping up with what others are doing on LinkedIn or Facebook, stressing that I need to stay in touch to be relevant and on top of the latest business trends. Throw in a pandemic, and, in my opinion, it has escalated matters all the more.

It may have been in the back of my mind earlier, but the horrendous impact of COVID has now sharply reminded me of all of the irreplaceable benefits of face-to-face communication and how important it is that we don’t lose sight of them through these trying times. Perhaps it’s a “want what you can’t have” type of situation, but I think myself and many other people out there have been missing that in-person contact and have realized that we may have taken it for granted a bit when it was the norm. The world realizes now that personal interactions are essential to maintaining a successful business through adversity and beyond. Zoom is a great short-term substitute, but I will want to see more people in person in the long run. Video chats can very limitedly convey the type of nonverbal language important for building a lasting connection. Eye contact isn’t quite eye contact when you have to stare into a camera, and things like a good firm handshake are lost completely. 

So what are the advantages of
in-person or live connections?

Ensuring Clear Communication: Often, written communication doesn’t clearly reflect the sender’s tone and intended meaning. How often have you changed an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence back to a period? Excited or happy can also be construed as yelling! See what I mean?

When we meet someone in person or speak with them on the phone, we have the opportunity to make sure each point we discuss is understood the way it was intended to be by all parties. This avoids a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding that an email may have created.

Creating Trust: I have had the same real estate agent for 20 years because he has made an effort to keep in touch with me even though I haven’t moved in the last ten years. I end up referring him to everyone and look forward to catching up with him – even if it is only once a year. Meeting in-person facilitates trust in our relationship and has lengthened our friendship considerably.

One day, I met one of my clients as a walk-in to visit our showroom. He was looking for a vendor to build a new exhibit. We met for about an hour, and as he was leaving, he said we should get started on the design. His reasoning? He knew he wanted to work with someone who wore slippers in a meeting while dressed up in a suit. I had forgotten that I took off my uncomfortable heels earlier! That day and that minor detail was the beginning of a long-standing friendship and business relationship that is still strong 14 years later. Something that wouldn’t have happened without our direct contact.

Opening Doors and Opportunities: Simple conversations can be a starting point to so much more. I can meet with a client about a trade show display, and it can turn into branding their office or a referral to a friend of theirs who has just started a business and needs a display (think of the added profitability). Some of our best innovations and ideas come from chatting over lunch with an old client who saw something that reminded them of us, and they were sure we could come up with something better. The internet is full of ideas but having someone to hash it out and brainstorm with is how you generate more ideas and ultimately build them.  

We will all remember 2020, for better or for worse, but it’s my goal to focus on something positive from this whole experience. My biggest takeaway is just how much it bothers me that I have lost touch with so many people this year. Considering the current restrictions, seeing people in person is a challenge or straight up not allowed, and I have become a bit of a recluse, which is out of character for me. Regardless, because of this, I’ve come to realize how much my connections mean to me. I have begun to consider what my New Year’s resolutions will be. My New Year’s resolution for 2021 is to pick up the phone and start calling people more often, whether it be clients, friends, or family. I hope that we will soon be able to see more people in person and feel that firm handshake or hug, and see their smiles and eyes light up. But, until then, I want to be able to hear someone’s laughter and their tone of voice. Whether it be happy, excited, questioning, sarcastic, or even sad. It makes no difference. I’m looking to connect more.

By the time some of you read this, it will be 2021, and I hope you will answer the phone when I call. If you happen to phone me first, I will be excited to talk to you.

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