OK, yes, Zoom has been great, no doubt. Done a few virtual trade events as well; pretty cool. And it is amazing just how much you can get done via email and text, right?
Having said all that, if I don’t have a face-to-face meeting with one of you people soon, I’m going to lose my mind.
Such is life in a pandemic. I get it. Saving lives is the sole focus these days and quarantining and social distancing is the best way we can help right now. And that is exactly how it should be. As I write this, it is encouraging to see that we are “creeping” back a bit of late. And at some point we’ll be back to some semblance of normalcy, fingers clearly crossed.
What concerns me is that we don’t get too used to all this virtual communication. I know it’s necessary right now, and yes, it’s all fairly efficient. But we mustn’t ever underestimate the power of human interaction and the importance of face-to-face communication. As we roll deeper into this virus quagmire, it’s easy to rationalize that Zoom meetings and virtual events are far cheaper to both set up and attend than the physical versions. They are also far less time-consuming – no travel, no overnight stays, no fuss, no muss.
Even pre-pandemic, we had lost a bit of our edge when it comes to face-to-face communication. The smartphone, social media, etc., while being a boon to business for the way in which they allow us to instantly reach millions, has also dulled our physical game a bit over the years. Should this pandemic go on longer than we are all hoping, it will do the same, at a far greater price – that I know.
However, and again, I preface, I’m not suggesting we ignore health officials and rush back to pre-COVID behaviors. I’m simply saying if the point of being in business is to simply exchange ideas in a vacuum, over a computer, and then move on to the next idea, we run the risk of losing our sensibility.
Business is, in large part, about building relationships. So is life. Face-to-face interactions build trust, understanding, a sense of a shared mission, the best parts of what we do every day. It’s why consumers will never only shop online, it’s why the physical trade show business will never die (though rumored to do so for years) and it’s why our work lives have a deeper meaning that you don’t see on a P&L sheet.
So, yes, let’s slay the beast first. The incredible first responders all deserve our best efforts in that endeavor. And let’s make the best of our virtual business dealings for now.
And next time we meet face-to-face, it’s okay if we decide not to shake hands – a smile and a nod are fine. I’m just looking forward to a time, hopefully soon, when stores are full, trade show floors are buzzing and my kids are out of the house.