We live much of our lives today in a wonderful fantasy world where we can create the physical images of many of the folks we do business with every day. Our intensive use of email, text, and phone allow us to achieve the business requirements our jobs demand, as well as some social pleasantries without ever seeing the other person.
During these exchanges, we recall images of the people we are dealing with from our past face-to-face encounters with them. While this practice alone can conjure up some rather bizarre, humorous, or best forgotten memories, we still have a clear picture of who we are communicating with. On the other hand, our minds tend to create a physical persona for those whom we have never personally met. Embarrassing assumptions can be made through email/text communication when we are forced to guess at the gender of Pat, Stacy, Jamie, Sage, or Bailey. Our initial assumption will allow our brains to subconsciously create a male or female image for this person in our minds. Once created, your mind will remember this image better than you can remember your youngest child’s date of birth.
Today’s reality is that we can probably identify no more than half the people we communicate with every day. As you might imagine, meeting with these folks live for the first time can pose some challenges.
Here’s a scenario that could play out:
I’ve finally arranged a face-to-face meeting with Pat at an ERA event. I am really hoping to close the deal we’ve been working on for a few months. We have arranged to meet in the lobby of the hotel and find a place to grab a cup of coffee. The meeting is set for 10:00 a.m. I get to the lobby by 9:50 a.m. Wow, there must be a couple hundred people milling around and talking.
Suddenly, I realize that I have no idea what Pat looks like, and he has never seen me either. Thankfully, nearly everyone is wearing name tags. It is times like this that I wish my eyesight was better, really better! I meander through the crowd greeting people I know and staring at strangers’ chests to try and read their name tags. This is awkward and I realize I’m getting strange looks from these folks, especially the females. Not a Pat to be found. I am about to call Pat to see where he is when I hear a young lady ask the guy behind me if he knows Bill Southwick.
Before I can turn, I hear him say, “Why are you looking for that paunchy old guy?” WHAT? I realize she’s speaking to one of my peers, Fred. He doesn’t believe in joining trade associations and is a non-registered attendee trying to drum up business in the lobby on everyone else’s dime.
I wait for her response; “I had a meeting scheduled with him here in the lobby at 10:00 a.m. and I’m a few minutes late. By the way, I’m Pat.”
Before Fred can move in on my prospect, I quickly suck in my gut, turn around, and introduce myself to Pat and pleasantly greet Fred.“It is so nice to finally meet you, Pat. Let’s go inside the event and find a place to sit and talk. Fred, would you care to join us?”
Fred explains that he doesn’t have a name tag and is unable to enter the event. Poor Fred! Walking into the event, Pat mentioned that Fred seemed rather rude and unprofessional. I shared with her that others had made the same observation but that I was sure he meant well.
Our meeting was very productive, we closed the deal, and I took the opportunity to introduce Pat to a variety of other ERA members that could be of help with her new campaign. These folks were all complimentary of me and my company and set a tone of professionalism that Pat could really appreciate. I also introduced her to ERA staffers to learn more about membership with ERA.
Happy to say, I heard no other comments about the ‘paunchy old guy’ inside the event.