May 15, 2018 — Thoughts
“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with his soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” – Charles Dickens (who could only have been referring to the telegraph at the time… if only he knew what was coming!)
Email. Text. Phone calls. Skype. Slack. Trello. Whatsapp. Asana. Basecamp. As a millennial, (and proud) in the client service game there are a cacophony of ways to talk to my clients and colleagues, at every moment of every day. However, with all that noise, it’s vital we don’t lose sight of the immeasurable benefit of face-to-face time.
In our time-poor and technology-rich working lives we are required to stay up-to-date with digital innovations, especially ones that gift us back valuable minutes. We constantly look for ways to do our jobs faster so we can fit more in. This yearn for speed and efficiency, combined with some pretty impressive communication technology, has diluted the importance of simply sitting down, presenting work and having a good old yarn with our clients.
Although time and budgets will never allow for constant face-to-face sessions with all relevant people involved in a project, we should strive to incorporate these physical meetings into project scopes, with both sides investing in them when we can.
It comes down to what you miss out on versus what you gain.
As humans we are designed to read a million tiny cues all at once when communicating. The raising of an eyebrow, an adjustment in posture or clothing, a sideways look or even, god forbid, the rolling of an eye. Even in a high definition Skype call, these tiny tells can be missed and an important opportunity or chance to explain further can pass by in a second.
On top of that, the environments we set for these long-distance tech-based sessions is entirely of our own design. We reduce the level of openness as the visible area in a conference call, or complete lack of visibility, is controlled by those who set it up. Your client can see a boardroom table, but who else is in the office? What’s the general vibe? What’s that weird sound? Which dog is in the studio today? We want our clients to feel like partners, not outsiders looking in through a porthole. And vice versa. We’re presenting an idea over speakerphone, but who else can hear? How do we ensure we engage everyone without knowing who is in the room? Limited visibility equates to less trust.
And, let’s be honest, we’ve all been part of the 15 minute “technology trouble time” that precedes each of these digital sessions. Skype has logged out. The Jabra won’t connect to bluetooth. The screen is off and no one knows where the remote is. If we calculated this time I’m sure we could justify at least one more face-to-face session over the course of each project!
In our world, with deadlines approaching at speed and each minute being measured, I know face-to-face alone is not possible. Technology advancements should always be celebrated as they allow us to have clients and relationships all across the globe. However, during the past few years, I have watched relationships between clients and agencies develop from pure work to real partnerships and produce phenomenal outcomes. When we work as a team, blurring the lines between who works where, sharing ideas and speaking openly and frankly, we create the best work. And face-to-face is at the heart of this. Let’s make it a priority.