“You can’t fax a handshake”

In an article in this morning’s NY Times about the President’s meeting with bankers yesterday (“Putting Obama On Hold”) the article closes with this line about the unfortunate absence from the meeting of three of the big bank CEOs: “There’s an expression that many bankers already know…when people need to be reminded of the importance of getting on a plane and seeing a client: ‘You can’t fax a handshake.'”

Yet clearly attitudes have changed with the availability of communications technologies regarding the role of frequent in-person contact. More than ever, through asynchronous communications (like the GovLoop community) which build rich profiles of participants, or real-time “synchronous” communications, like a webconference, one can learn alot about their business partners and distant colleagues without a physical meeting.

If you’ve ever been part of a telepresence meeting, you’ve had a glimpse of just how much “reality” that a sim-physical presence — through some of the newer, rich media communications technologies — is able to provide. This area will keep growing, with a company that is local to my Austin headquarters — Lifesize Communications, a maker of lower-cost telepresence solutions — recently being acquired Logitech for nearly half a billion dollars.

Yet, there clearly remains a place for “real” physical contact with business partners, colleagues, co-workers, and others. In fact, I wrote about the range of physical to virtual contact and the potential physiological importance of the human connection last month in my post “Adventures in Reality” – in particular, the writing of Aric Sigman.

Have you become more discriminating with your in-person contacts? Are face-to-face meetings and events more important than ever? How do you make decisions differently about attendance than you did in the past? What do you feel you have lost (if anything) in an era of lower in-person contact?

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I think online and offline interactions reinforce each other. Actually one of the biggest drivers to online communities is offline events. And I believe online activities can help maintain and grow relationships b/w meetings. For example, I love the face-to-face but I can build upon that through months of online interactions at places like GovLoop, Twitter, FB….

Steve Guengerich

Thanks for the comment, Steve. Here’s a question: if an organization that brings people together through a F2F event also provides a forum for the participants to communicate/message with one another online before and during the event, do they have an implicit obligation to continue providing that forum after the F2F event? For example, what if you initiate an online discussion with one or more other event participants and then, shortly after the event, the online discussion is no longer available (because it was “event specific”)? One could argue that is the right of the event producer, but it seems to cut against the grain of maintaining and growing relationships between meetings. I’ve experienced this situation earlier this year; have you or others?


One event organizer stated that however you start is how you are stereotyped and hard to move away. So if you are mainly an offline event, it is hard to maintain a good online community and vice-versa. I would say that is moderately true. I think in the example below they should maintain that forum but do it in an already existing place like a GovLoop, FB, or LinkedIn as people don’t want to go to another site after the event but want it incorporated in their daily lives.

Adriel Hampton

I got into Gov 2.0 mainly because it was a great way to network around reform ideas without physical proxemity. Without a conference-oriented position, and as a parent, I’ve found social networks of tremendous value that I could simply not experience IRL. And, now I have relationships lined up for the “handshake” opportunities.