Technology Schmechnology – I’ll Take a Handshake

I was fortunate enough to attend the annual World of Concrete/World of Masonry tradeshow last week and had a wonderful time. While I enjoy walking the show to check out what’s new, find out the latest trends and just basically see what other companies are up to, the absolute best part of attending the shows is seeing people – clients, editors, ad reps and all others I work with on a daily basis.

While I technically do “work” with these people every day, I don’t actually get to see them in person. And it’s amazing how much of that personal connection is missed when you’re not face-to-face. Now I’m not saying that I don’t feel I know clients well or have a personal connection to editors. I just don’t get much face time with them, since most of our communication is done via phone, e-mail and even Skype – Denise and I just had our first Skype conference call with a client last week. I’ve gotten to know people quite well through these means of communication, even to the point where I know about their personal interests, their family and even their pick for Super Bowl XLV. But bottom line, with all the technology and ways to stay connected remotely, nothing beats that personal, face-to-face, rubbing elbows time.

I really got to thinking about this at the show. People often talk about how the industry is changing and tradeshows are changing, and there is always the question of how much. How much is the recent economic rollercoaster going to change the future of tradeshows? Will they become virtual or virtually obsolete? I can’t say for sure, but I feel both would be mistakes. Why? The connections. Business is built on relationships. Whether you’re in PR, sales, or the person behind the parts counter – creating the personal relationship is key. For me, there’s nothing better than meeting an editor, and actually shaking their hand and getting a chance to chat with them. And I always feel great when I see a client after a few months and am greeted with a big smile and hug. Hey, I even enjoy when I go to the local pita shop and the girls there greet me by name and ask if I want “the usual”. It just builds that relationship.

Now, all this may be because I’m a people person. I admit it, I love meeting new people, I love catching up with those I know and I just enjoy spending time with others. But even with my personality aside, I’m still a firm believer that no amount of Skype, e-mails and telephone calls will ever replace the handshake.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel personal interaction is a crucial step in maintaining important business relationships?