Going Live…

26 Jan, 2011

by Julie Ferris

I promised endless gushing about the Business Journal’s Book of Lists event, and I will deliver. As I mentioned before, a number of things resonated for me in that transformed ballroom, but the importance of human interactions ranks highest.

In my professional and personal life, I spend my time managing a number of social media accounts and projects. I tell friends to email or text me because I hate talking on the phone. What’s worse, something about the technology or the design leaves me completely unable to hear on a cell phone. By canceling my land line and relying solely on the device I can only manage when not using it as it was primarily intended, I’ve cut myself off from people. It’s not what I meant to do, but it is the sad result. I exist in bits and bytes…unless we’re face to face.

I am the embodiment of the cliché, “a people person.” For me, that means I talk to people in the elevator, I smile at strangers, I’ll tell you when there’s something in your teeth. I tell random people on the street or in the halls “I like your shoes” or “Blue is really your color!”

I have grown frustrated when people don’t get it or don’t like this innocuous attempt at interaction. I fear becoming like them. And, since I’ve begun this opportunity at the Pfister, it has completely renewed in me faith that most people can and do interact and a smile and hello is all it takes. In fact, I think the friendly, social people of the world are drawn to the hotel.

Circulating at this business function reminded me of how important this interaction is. Humans are social creatures, but we are spending our days managing Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0, watching for the ROI of our online ads while letting news find us and following resumes on LinkedIn and chasing relatives on Facebook. Sticking with clichés, if I had a nickel for every social media seminar or coaching class being offered…

At the Business Journal event, however, one truly crossed a bridge. Though it was beautiful décor, its metaphor wasn’t lost on me. There was a charm to capturing the Orient in the evening’s theme and the rich quality of a “time back when” and a “different era” seemed to envelop us. What’s more, businesses created engaging booths and interactive displays, as I was told “people don’t just walk up to your business display anymore, they have to be engaged.”

I saw people mingling and engaging booths; laughing and bumping into each other—literally—as we shared this beautiful space with other humans, not avatars. People enjoyed it. People were talking, laughing and sharing stories. In one group I talked to, we learned we were all musicians and joked about starting a band. It was a throw back to another time, where MeetUp was an action, not a website.

We think social media is dynamic because it grows and changes so fast and messages come at us at such high velocities. But it was clear at the Pfister that the paradox of business may be that mastering Facebook is necessary; and skillful face time is an ancient art.

About the author

Julie Ferris

Julie is a devout Iowa Hawkeye fan despite her new Wisconsin roots, loves to read and is a sucker for good creme brulee and bad puns.

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