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From High-Tech to High-Touch: Keeping the Human Element

Even with all the hype over this New Year's Eve, I don't think anyone truly believes our lives will change at the stroke of midnight. On the other hand, no one can deny that our lives and the events within them change at a faster rate than ever before.

We have technology to thank for this, and yet, even in this season of thankfulness, I'm not entirely grateful for e-mail, fax machines and cell phones. They have changed the way we communicate and, if we aren't careful, might even keep us from truly communicating with one another.

I have seen a shift over this past decade. Somewhere along the line, business became more about "getting it" and less about "creating it."

At meetings and conventions, I hear people talk about how to "get more business." They go to these events to network, to find out how to do business better, but they don't pay attention to creating business by making long-lasting relationships with clients and other vendors. The person standing before you is someone who not only might help you in your business, but who could possibly become a friend, someone you can trust over time.

Industry organizations were formed by people like this. The younger generation might see this group as a clique, but 10 years ago, none of the people who started ISES even knew each other. We came together not to "get business" but to form a network of people of like minds who were interested in bettering the profession for everyone.

You can't do that by talking to someone on the phone for 20 minutes, then staying in touch through e-mail. It takes person-to-person contact. Which, ironically, is what an event is all about. Our clients hold events so they can show their appreciation to others, create new relationships, solidify old bonds-in general, to produce an environment that is about people meeting people and making an evening memorable.

As event planners and designers, we are asked to create so much so fast that unfortunately we forget the fine art of relationship-building. We need to remember why people have events in the first place, or we run the risk of creating events that are robotic and devoid of feeling.

This means taking the time to get to know your client and your vendors. Rather than spending half an hour with them on the phone and then e-mailing or faxing a proposal, we need to spend time with them face to face in order. This is the only way we can begin to understand their values, objectives and goals.

What has held my interest during three decades in this industry isn't the next great event, but the friendships I've made. Sometimes I think it really doesn't matter if I were producing widgets or creating an event in France -in the long run, it's the relationships that matter.

The bottom line is that it's not just about the bottom line. Get the business, absolutely. But, first, get off the phone, get away from your computer, and go out there and build relationships. The fruits of your labor will reward you far longer than some check deposited into the bank.


1. Take the time to visit your client in his or her office without the express purpose of doing business. Better yet, meet for a meal or coffee, just to get to know this person. With time so precious, it's not always easy, but make the effort anyway.

2. Make short phone calls for no specific reason. If you call only when you need something, you break down the relationship.

3. In slow months, learn about someone else's company and how it works. Sharing knowledge will strengthen trust and teach us how others do business.

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