Is Technology Killing Communication?

Recent research indicates that some of the main issues in sales and communications right now have emerged because people believe you can replace face-to-face (and voice-to-voice) communications with text, e-mail and social networking. These ways of interacting electronically obviously offer huge benefits and are no doubt part of the future, but they lack a personal element that offers a distinctive edge. For example, organizations that respond to Internet leads with a phone call have ten times the closing ratio of those who respond by e-mail (even when the leads come from people under 30 years of age). So if you are wondering why your sales are down and notice that your office is spooky quiet, now you have your answer. Technology is killing your communication!

Also, companies that have regular face-to-face meetings (like technology giants Google and Oracle, for example) are typically more successful than companies that choose to communicate through technology. Something we hear all the time in every industry is “We need to get everybody on the same page.” You’ll have more success doing that if you rely less on composing tweets or e-mails and pressing “Send.” That’s because only 2 percent of the population can write as well as they speak. So if you can’t follow this article so far, it’s not my brain that has the problem; it’s my writing style. Actually, I intentionally write on a seventh-grade level so I can be clear… and also because I lack the skill to write at an eighth-grade level. That’s also probably the reason why my book is selling well.

But let’s not peg all technological media advances as impersonal or ineffective or without the power to influence. Videoconferencing has huge benefits in terms of saving time and travel costs, and it’s crucial for meetings with faraway clients. Be clear, though, that if you were in the room with your audience, you would have much more influence and would take business away from the company that didn’t bother to show up. Think about it: If you texted (is that a word?) somebody 10 times and someone else had a five-minute conversation with that person, who do you think has more influence? Here’s a hint. It’s not you!

Although I have done presentations through videoconferencing, as a professional guest speaker I always have a live audience at the event and then shoot the video out to other locations. The live audience gives the remote attendees the feeling that they are actually present, and it allows me to feel like I’m not some guy alone in a room talking to a flat-screen monitor. My point is that throughout history we have always believed that we could replace human contact with technology. In the 1920s, we thought the telephone would stop people from ever meeting in person and the fax machine would mean that engineers and architects might never leave their offices. (That’s right – the fax machine was invented in 1918!) In the 19th century, we thought the telegraph would replace the mail. Can you believe that we still send paper stuffed in better paper around the world, to be delivered by people wearing shorts and safari helmets?

Technology seems to have limits when it comes to people getting personal. It seems that humans always keep hoping we can find a way to avoid each other and still communicate. The truth is that with all the technology humans have developed to keep us apart, we still just can’t get enough of each other!


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