When I was younger I loved to talk on the phone. Hours could be spent on the phone chatting with a friend, laughing and discussing the important things in life, like the fabulous pair of shoes I saw at the mall. Girl talk is communication at its best.
When I first entered the workforce much of my day was spent in business conversations on the phone. Email was not quite as popular at the time, although we considered it a great tool to complement the phone. And the fax machine was the bomb! We used that thing all the time. Doing business overseas was a breeze since the fax could be sent at any time, day or night. Super convenient. Yet the most important form of communication was face-to-face meetings. As a retailer, I spent weeks each year visiting every store location, talking to store employees to understand the subtle differences in business at each location. And meetings with vendors were always best done in person.
When mobile phones became a business necessity instead of a perk, it seemed like we hit the jackpot: we could talk anytime, anywhere. The popularity of text messages and email fired us to a new level of communication, allowing us to connect on our terms either by voice or in writing.
Yet as much as I love a good phone conversation, to hear the ping of a text or get the message “You’ve got mail”, nothing can replace in person, face-to-face communication. I want to see people’s expressions, notice subtle cues. There’s so much more to communication than phone conversations, plus emotions don’t translate very well if I can’t see you. And don’t get me started on emails or texts – if they are written poorly it’s easy to misunderstand the meaning behind the message.
Sure, it’s convenient and easy to use all of the digital communication tools available. Just one look at my inbox proves that email is the communication tool of choice. Yet I find myself longing for more face time with clients as well as colleagues. And my guess is that clients want the same thing.
Is all this technology really good for our clients? As PR executives we’re in the communication business and it seems to me that face-time with clients, as well as our own colleagues, is better than any form of electronic communication. Yes, we’re all very busy with meetings and work, and it’s hard to carve out face
time. But think of how much we might learn if we spent a bit more time meeting in person and less time asking a question via email! A carefully planned meeting could answer multiple questions in one sitting. Not to mention the value of visibly gauging reactions and subtle nuances in body language.
Think about it the next time you send an email to a client. Maybe some face time would actually be more efficient.