In the spring of 1995 I had just completed a three-year stint as part of the real estate loan workout team that ‘saved’ Midlantic Bank in New Jersey. The team was headed by Andy Siwulec, a great guy who is still with the bank (which, when healthy, was bought by PNC). As many of you know, in workouts, it’s not just the loans that you’re working out, you’re working yourself out of a job.
Thinking about what to do next, I met with an long-time acquaintance, Bill Farber, who headed Levin Management Corp. The late Phil Levin was one of the original shopping center developers in NJ and PA. For 40 years, the firm had been quietly overseeing it’s own portfolio. Bill told me that he had wanted to seek institutional third party leasing and management business but they didn’t have someone who could focus on that. So, we made a deal and I joined them as their first Director of New Business Development.
The firm had a great legacy and story to tell – they had never before issued a press release. In getting my budget approved I requested permission to hire a PR firm to get the word out. Having lunch with an old softball team friend Larry Paragano, whose family owns commercial real estate, he mentioned a great boutique NJ-based real estate focused PR firm called Caryl Communications.
And that was the start of my friendship with Caryl Bixon, which continues to this day. Caryl and her husband Bob (a guitar player) have built a highly respected PR and Communications firm which has now expanded beyond commercial real estate.
Recently, Caryl published a piece called “Facetime or Face time – Mix High Tech and High Touch to Create Productive Meetings.” As you might imagine, this totally resonated with me. I offer you the essay in its entirety here:
FaceTime, Google Hangout, Skype, WebEX, GoToMeeting – if you’re in business today, you know dozens of ways to meet colleagues and customers without leaving your desk. Online meetings continue to grow in popularity because they save time and money, but traditional in-person meetings remain a top tactic for a number of reasons. As an established NJ PR firm, we share the following advice:
Let’s Admit It: Humans Love Real Face Time
As social beings, most of us relish personal interactions. We like eye contact and handshakes. We interpret body language, as well as words. Even many tech-oriented Millennials favor in-person over online meetings. In one survey, 80 percent said they preferred traditional face time to screen time as a productive business tool. Face-to-face gatherings tend to result in more engaged and focused participants (no opportunity to multi-task or check social media). Discussion flows better. Questions and issues are easier to resolve. A stronger sense of teamwork exists. And when a client is on the other side of the table, the relationship is strengthened. In-person meetings also tend to be shorter and more efficient and are usually free from the tech glitches that can plague the online alternatives.
When to Connect Online and When to Meet in Person
FacetTime, Skype and the meeting platform of your choice can still p lay a big role in communication. Online meetings are ideal for quick, frequent updates. Also, if staff work remotely, or a sales team is in the field, online meetings will keep people connected without investing travel time or money.
That said, traditional in-person gatherings have some very distinct advantages for a number of specific meetings such as:
· Motivational sessions
· Early –stage sales calls
· Product demonstrations/ presentations
Discussions of a sensitive or confidential nature are always best conducted in-person as well.
Want to learn more about the benefits of both in-person and online gatherings?
Visit these articles:
Both before Al Gore invented the Internet and since, I have been a huge proponent of face-to-face meetings. I remember flying to Tennessee to see a potential client. I went on my own dime. The phone didn’t seem to be getting us anywhere and I know they were considering other consultants.
The face-to-face meeting went very well – the client and I hit it off and he realized that my experience and style were what he was looking for. They hired me. Would that deal have been consummated if I hadn’t invested in visiting them in-person? Who knows? Over the years, I have found that sitting with someone, on his or her own turf, has proven to be hugely valuable and rewarding in building relationships.
Thanks Caryl for sharing this timely message. As technology becomes more helpful and at the same time intrusive, keeping, as Bruce Springsteen wrote, “a little of that Human Touch” becomes more challenging – and perhaps never more important.
Summer to Fall
At this time, our mindset starts moving to ‘Back-to-School’ season. I took some time off this summer to spend in my new ‘home’ in the Asheville, NC area. With all my travel, I hadn’t really had a chance to decide if I liked it. I want to like it and by being around I’ve started finding some outlets for things that I enjoy: playing tennis, getting lost when driving in the Smokey Mountains, spending time with my family and getting to know a couple of people to stuff with. It is such a huge difference from living just off Columbus Circle in Manhattan. I say Manhattan because in this area, when someone asks, “Where did you move here from?” and I say “New York” they don’t correlate that with New York City – rather other cities and areas in New York State.
This area is truly a melting pot. While it is in the South and clearly in the Bible Belt, a lot of folks have moved here from other areas. I’ve discovered that there area bunch of people who live in South Florida and come here for the summer to get away from the oppressive heat. Some of you know the term ‘ Snow Bird’ for those folks from the northern U.S. who go South for the winter. I’m not sure if there’s a term for the folks here who make their annual pilgrimage.
We’re also getting our fall and winter calendar in shape - scheduling our Women’s Leadership Workshops and finalizing Behavioral Presentation Coaching workshops for our clients.
Virtually everyone we talk with admits, ‘Yes, we can improve our presentations” but, sometimes, getting the group together in one place at the same time is challenging but eventually happens.
And, as our clients start thinking about fall industry events, we’re being asked about coaching some of their folks about “How to be an effective moderator” and “How to be a memorable panelist” at an industry event – or their own investor conferences.
As people ask me, “So, Steve, how’s it going?” I now have an answer that is both simple and understandable by anyone who is in the service business: “We’re getting repeat business!” It’s tremendously encouraging to Liz and I and reinforces our value proposition.
I look forward to seeing many of you ‘on the road’ this fall. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and take some time to do things you love.