I have one of those mainly-just-me-and-my-computer careers. (My 2nd career, acting, is another story--and another blog post.) On an average month my work demands that I engage with people in person four hours or less.
I, like many people these days, have clients that I've never met in person. Recently I got the chance to meet some face to face for the first time after having worked with them for several months. Connecting with them in person was so refreshing and reminded me of why the face-to-face experience simply can't be replaced by conference calls, emails or Google Hangouts.
1. Eye contact. It powerfully conveys authenticity and intentional listening. When eye contact is avoided our first instinct is to think that someone may not be trustworthy.
2. (Appropriate) physical touch. The occasional touch on a shoulder conveys warmth and amiability. Depending on your culture, this conveys a real sense of friendliness and accessibility.
3. Body language/mannerisms. Expressive gestures can contribute equally to getting a feel for someone's personality as their words do.
4. The comfort and joy of gathering around a table. Many of life's most meaningful moments are experienced when dining or drinking together. Ie Starbucks, Cheers, Thanksgiving, The Last Supper--you get the idea.
5. Veering off topic. Sometimes you just need to let conversation wander into unplanned territory. This can help people gain a better understanding of one another. This rarely happens when you're sticking to an agenda on a conference call.
6. Making a joint memory. Whether it's bearing witness to a disruptive person getting kicked out of a restaurant or simply having an excellent customer service experience from a waiter, going through an actual experience together builds camaraderie.
7. Chiming in without it being mistaken for an interruption. When adding onto something someone else has said it's often misinterpreted as interrupting if they can't see your visual cues that you agree or want to interject. When your eyes light up at something the other person says, they're less surprised that you want to add on to the conversation.
8. Shared experience helps to identify with one another. Clients, employees, contract workers, and agencies all become human when you get stuck in the same traffic, experience the same lovely 72 degree weather, and both get a free frappucino sample at the coffee shop. It's a great equalizer and reminder that after work we're all just humans.
9. Getting back to basics feels authentic. Putting technology away for an hour or two is refreshing. Taking it back old school without notifications, vibrations, and friend requests is a great opportunity to simply connect with other human beings.
Technology should be used as support for the in-person connection. After all, communication at its most basic is one person sending a message to another person. It can be done without anything Steve Jobs invented.
Does engaging with others in person make you nervous? Do you hate how technology has overtaken much of professional communication these days?
Hilary is fascinated by the intersection of social media and live experiences. She even wrote her masters thesis on it.