Given the option, which would you choose: watching the NCAA Final Four on TV, or attending the games in person, immersed in the energy, sights and sounds of a packed arena?
It’s a no-brainer, right?
With the proliferation of email, cell phones, Skype, iPhone’s FaceTime and Google+ Hangouts, we now have access to exciting and affordable technology that makes it easier than ever to interact with each other, regardless of distance. But believe it or not, the same factors that tip the scales in favor of watching a basketball game in person still play an essential role in communication as well.
A few months ago when one of Airfoil’s clients appointed a new executive, our team thought long and hard about how to best introduce him to the media and our public audience. With no hard news to share, we looked at our assets: 1) an energetic and knowledgeable new executive, 2) a company that, despite being between new product cycles, had compelling products on its roster, and 3) a high concentration of key reporters in two major cities.
The solution? We enlisted our new executive to travel the East Coast, meeting with reporters to share his knowledge and perform hands-on product demos along the way. And thus, the “Traveling Product Showcase” was born.
It seems deceivingly simple, right? But unfortunately, it appears this strategy is becoming less and less common, and based on the feedback we received from our reporters, “in person” is all too often an overlooked form of communication.
So what specifically makes an in-person meeting so impactful? There is seemingly endless research available that touts the importance of non-verbal communication cues, but on a less scientific level, I’ll share a few of my own observations:
- Energy: Unless an email is filled with exclamation points (and let’s be honest, over-punctuation can be hard to read!!!), it’s difficult to convey the enthusiasm and energy needed to make something compelling. Phone calls can also fall flat, especially when hindered by zero facial expressions or body language and awkward pauses (does “Sorry, I was on mute,” ring a bell?).
- Tone: You know what email doesn’t have? A sense of tone. Do you know how often this has caused a recipient to misinterpret/overreact/under react to a simple statement? All the time.
- Give-and-take: During the “Traveling Product Showcase,” one of the best interviews we conducted was less of a Q&A session, and more of a conversation. The verbal tennis match between our executive and the reporter was unlike anything I’ve seen during a media engagement, and the discussion was exhilarating, informative and valuable for all involved. As the reporter later put it, “There are just some conversations that can’t be had over the phone or email.”
- Effort: Taking the time to arrange an in-person meeting says a lot about how much you value the other person. Trust me, it won’t go unnoticed.
- It’s just more fun: This may be oversimplifying everything, but humans are social by nature. We thrive on interaction, so why should we limit our engagements to computer screens and phone lines?
So the next time you’re planning an interview (or any type of interaction, for that matter), consider making the time and effort to meet in person. You’ll be surprised by how much value it can add to your experience.
— Susie Johnston is an account executive at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Silicon Valley and Detroit.