The in-person meet and greet cannot be replaced with technology, email, or Skype. There is nothing like the present. And your handshake is the most meaningful business gift you can give these days. Let’s go back to the days of business when you walked into a room and there was eye contact. Everyone connected with everyone else and there was no buzzing (and apologizing) and ringing (and more apologizing) to distract us from really being there, in the room, at that moment, concentrating on who we were with. I’ve now been to about ten conferences in the last 18 months and when I’m in a session and that session mentions “Being There” as one of your greatest contributions to a meeting or event, I look around the room to see how many people this message touches. Some people lower their devices under the table, and some even turn them off or place them into their handbags. At a 2006, high-tech, pop culture-focused event I attended, it was nearly impossible to find a person in the audience not engaged in their laptop while the speaker professed his idea to the crowd. If you were not posting during the event, you were not sending instantaneous compliments back to your speaker. Posting while listening could be like belching at the table: The speaker wants you to repeat what he’s saying, and the chef does too. These acts were considered the highest of compliments to the respective recipients. But as a pure observer of such table “manners,” one might wonder when these impolite and distracting acts became acceptable. Neither a “belch” or a “beep” receives much, if any, high praise these days. I’m happy to report that 2013 is now about “being there” and “really being there.” The more sophisticated and mannered the audience, the less beeping and buzzing and fumbling of thumbs—thumbs that think they are invisible but are not. And no matter where you are on the company totem pole, and even if you say “you’re saving paper” or whatever your creative excuse of the day is, leave the laptops at your desk, your phones in your pocket (on vibrate please), and pull out a piece of paper and that old-fashioned implement, the pen, and be there. And, while you are at it, why not make a little eye contact and shake someone’s hand too.
Kelly Winkler, VP, Editorial Services