I just spent three days at the National Agri-Marketing Association conference in Kansas City. Many of the attendees at this yearly event come from the marketing and communications industry. Lots of business people at the conference were talking about the latest challenges in communications and marketing.
Lots of interesting topics were presented in the seminars. Lots of experts and professionals were milling about – and certainly there was lots and lots of conversation. But…with each other?
One evening, I spent an enjoyable dinner with a group of AdFarmers – we were joking about the pervasiveness of Twitter. “If you haven’t tweeted about it, it hasn’t really happened!” At one point, we all were sitting around the table, looking at our individual hand-held devices. No one speaking. Later that night, I was at the wonderful annual Brownfield party. Standing at the bar, I found myself surrounded by 4-5 people, all of whom were either on their cell phones or their blackberries. No glances at nametags to see who was who. No conversation. Back at the hotel, I found myself with five people in the elevator. Silence. No one glanced up from their smart-phones long enough to do anything more than press the button for their floor.
All this at a professional conference where everyone could at least offer camaraderie, and at the most a great idea, some business or a job offer!
This is where it gets personal.
My point: don’t forget that e-mails and blogs and tweeting and Facebook, while important, aren’t as important as the interaction and networking – the personal communication — you can do at a gathering. As marketing professionals, we’d give anything for a venue at which we could personally meet and talk with targets or prospects. So, when you’re face-to-face with people – talk with them. Build contacts and network. Talk about issues and ideas. Find out what others are thinking. Put together your thoughts and try them out on people. Get their input. Walk away with at least five people to whom you want to send a follow-up note (and yes, e-mail is just fine for that!) Summarize for clients or prospects or your colleagues the key things you learned.
Sure digital and social media, cell phones and blackberries, blogs and websites are incredibly important to us as marketers and as communicators. And that importance will continue to grow. But after you leave such an event, you’ll find that the most value you received was not through a screen or a device – it was through the people and the ideas and the conversation and the networking available at the event.
And that’s so much better than keeping your face pressed to your iPhone!
Where do you think technology fails us when it comes to maintaining business relationships?
Bob Wilhelm uses his vast experience to provide every single AdFarm client with personalized, strategic, and second-to-none service. He can be reached directly at Bob.Wilhelm@adfarmonline.com.