Face to Face Communication on Display

Turning Point

At the recently completed PMTS show in Columbus, it occurred to me that face to face communication is alive and well in spite of all the hype over iPhones, iPads and other “i” stuff as a replacement for face to face communication. It’s easy to fall into the trap that texting, emailing and other social media outlets should be considered as exclusive, without the need for other forms of communication rather than being viewed as augmenting the communication tools already in our tool box.

In spite of my observations to the contrary at PMTS, many seem concerned that we are in the process of losing the ability to converse face to face in favor of a less direct method that requires communication through a third-party device, most of which begin with “i.” Perhaps this is true; the future ultimately will tell.

In the grand scheme of things, a “lifetime” is a relatively short period. Everything that occurred before our respective births must be considered history. Unlike simply recalling one’s life experience, history requires some proactivity to discover.

Every generation, as it passes through life, thinks their experiences are unique. Mine did, my father’s did and all the way back. That’s where exploring some history can provide perspective. For me, as my teeth get longer, the life experiences stack up, and like many older people, they convert, as if by magic, into storytelling. I contrast this communication method to “story texting.”

I enjoy regaling my younger colleagues with events, people, travel experiences and other things I’ve managed to pick up along the way through my lifetime. It’s an honorable and proven communication channel to convey a tiny snippet of history, which unfortunately seems to fall increasingly on deaf ears.

For eons, storytelling was how individual history was passed down. Initially, it was passed only to those within earshot. Then along came writing that told stories to many more people. Printing and books became revolutionary tools for recording and disseminating what came before us.  

However, with each step forward in the technology of communication history, the supplanted method was rarely completely displaced. Writing did not replace conversation, books could not eliminate language, and so it has
gone forward.

Interestingly though, is that for much of history, access to communication technologies such as writing and reading were relegated to a select few. Scribes wrote for the few people who could read and likewise, books were distributed sparingly. The majorities were left with the old face to face verbal communication model. Happily, that restrictive system changed.

We now live in a time when communication technology has become so globally democratized that there is concern that too much access may become a bad thing. Hopefully, we will not revert back to a more restrictive system. Do you hear me, North Korea?

Like most tools, “i” things have a purpose and when applied correctly, can make each of us more efficient and productive. I have a smartphone, and it serves me well, especially for email when I travel. But it’s still just a tool, not a lifestyle. I refuse to allow the ping of an incoming message to rule my life. If I’m in a conversation or meeting, unlike many I know, I choose to give my attention to the people I’m with. I consider it rude to break off from a person in favor of a device. Like the ad campaign about texting and driving says, “It can wait.”

A tradeshow such as PMTS and others remain a bastion of face to face communication with knowledgeable people and tangible, kick the tires, interface within a market. In manufacturing, it’s virtually impossible to replicate the experience virtually.

The Internet and the easy access we have to its content represent wonderful tools. And there is no better way to narrow down a search for products and services available for a potential capital equipment acquisition process. However, put in its proper perspective, the Internet and its access devices are merely steps in the purchase process. Eventually, one needs to do a test drive. After all, we’re not talking about buying shoes or sweaters.