In Praise of Face Time

I love the ways we have to communicate with one another in 2012. Smartphones, tablets and laptops keep us connected everywhere. Email, texting, voice mail and social media provide plenty of options for keeping in touch.

But nothing can compare to in-person face time. Whether the face time is a sales call, a lunch visit or just a random encounter, an in-person chat can accomplish more than a conversation via email, Twitter, phone or even Skype. A few thoughts about the value of face time:

  1. It’s two-way instant communication. Sure, we have dialogues over the phone but they can be less than satisfying. When you are looking a person in the eye, you read facial expressions, you can tell whether he wants to jump in or just listen to you. You can tell if the other party is interested in topics you bring up. Likewise, your facial responses tell things that your verbal responses may not. This level of communication is not possible on the phone.
  2. The opportunity to connect on a personal basis is greater. A visit over lunch will likely include talk about things other than business. Conversing about something as simple as dogs, kids or TV can give you a bit of insight into a person’s thoughts (and can tell him something about you).
  3. It’s easier to talk “off the record.” We are more likely to share certain info if we are sitting across from or standing next to an individual. You can often learn useful things at lunch or coffee that you would never get via email or a phone call. I’m not talking about proprietary knowledge, but small nuggets of info that can have value.
  4. It’s easier to gauge your counterpart’s receptiveness to what you have to offer. When you see that you are not getting through, you make revisions. You can more easily adjust your pitch based on what you see and hear in person, as compared to the responses you get via phone.
  5. I believe, too, that an in-person meeting is more balanced. On many occasions, I end a phone call and think that the other guy barely let me speak. Other times I worry that I did too much of the talking. An in-person encounter usually allows both parties better opportunities to speak and, more importantly, to listen.
  6. We are social animals. We crave human interaction. We watch sports and reality shows because we identify with other humans. We seek from other humans that which we cannot get from computers and smartphones. Face time gives us that social gratification that comes from dealing with other people. Even visits with those clients and vendors who are not among your favorites can be useful in this way.
  7. Meeting IRL (in real life) can do wonders for relationships that are based primarily on phone calls and emails. Meeting a reporter or broadcaster for lunch, for instance, can result in his taking or returning a PR person’s next call (or responding to his email).

It’s springtime. Hang up the phone. Turn off your computer. Get out of the office and enjoy some face time with another real live person.

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