Like Gentlemen

I am not looking for a simpler time. Nor am I a Luddite; but I'm also far from a tech enthusiast. I don't carry a "berry" or any type of handheld device beyond my cell phone. I read way too much email as it is, so my excuse for not getting one is to avoid feeding my own habit. Jeff Einstein, who used to write regularly for MediaPost, would write passionately and convincingly that we use media the way addicts use drugs.

True Story. Three weeks ago I watched James Lipton of "Inside The Actors Studio" conduct a live interview of David Verklin, the CEO of Aegis Media (Carat) in front of more than 400 people at the OMMA conference. The famed interviewer started talking by demanding silence from the packed room. After glaring at a few tables, he got the silence he required to do his job of delivering compelling content to the audience that had gathered.

No more than ten minutes into the interview, I witnessed countless heads bop up and down and thumbs typing feverishly. Why did these people cram into this room to hear this keynote address only to listen with half their attention? Because they couldn't help it.



True story. A few months back, I sat in a big office, inside a really big building with a big-wig and his minion to help close a content partner relationship on behalf of one of my clients. My client's vice president of sales and I sat and listened to how "to be successful, this relationship must be built on sound communication." When it was our turn to talk, the big-wig's head headed south to read emails collecting in the palm of his hand. That's not normal -- and yet it has become the norm.

True story. Two weeks ago I met a client at his office, along with my colleague Anne, in downtown L.A. We had made plans for lunch but he asked that we meet at the company's offices first. There, he greeted us in the reception area and walked us back to his office furnished beautifully with pride and success. We stayed five minutes or so to get further acquainted, and then headed for the door. I instinctually reached for my computer bag, figuring while at lunch I would present what we'd agreed to share that day. When my client saw me reach, he said warmly, "Hey, don't worry about that, we can go over it when we return."

We walked three blocks and through an underground parking garage until we arrived at the California Club -- a hidden gem in downtown L.A. where lunch is served and business conducted without the use of electronic devices of any kind. Nothing but iced teas and fine silver occupied the hands of those we passed on the way to our table.

Ever walk through a casino and feel the rush hearing the bells and related sounds feeding a gambling frenzy? Now imagine walking through a restaurant and not seeing or hearing a single piece of technology in action. The place was humming along with warm and engaging conversations fueled by active listening. There was not a single ring or buzz in the air.

Myself, Anne and my client dined, talked and listened to each other "like gentlemen," as they say. We then went back to his office, conducted our business further with the aid of a laptop, and then determined some next steps. He then walked us to the door and shook our hands.

In a simpler time, a hand was used to cement a relationship. Today, too many are using their hands in a way that creates greater distance from those closest to them.


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