by Jim Obermeyer
I came across this piece online the other day. Hit me at just the right moment:
I spent an hour at the bank with my dad, as he had to transfer some money. While in the lobby waiting, I asked: “Dad, why don’t we activate your internet banking?”
“Why would I do that?” he asked.
“Well, then you won’t have to spend an hour here for things like fund transfers. You can even do your shopping online. Everything will be so easy!” I was so excited about initiating him into the world of online banking and shopping.
He asked: “If I do that, I won’t have to step out of the house?”
“Yes, yes!” I said. I told him how even groceries can be delivered to your door now and how Amazon delivers everything! His answer left me speechless:
He said: “Since I entered this bank today, I have met four of my friends, I have chatted a while with the staff who know me well by now. You know I am alone; this is the company that I need. I like to get ready and come to the bank. I have enough time; it is the face to face that I crave.”
“Two years back I got sick, the store owner from whom I buy fruits came to see me and sat by my bedside. When your mom fell on her morning walk, our local grocer saw her and immediately got his car to rush her home as he knows where we live.”
“Would I have that human touch if everything were online? Why would I want everything delivered to me and force me to interact with just my computer? I like to know the person that I’m dealing with and not just the ‘seller.’ It creates bonds, relationships, friendships. Does Amazon deliver all of this as well?”
We have all been cooped up for the last year and have all become accustomed to (like it or not) online banking, online shopping, online meetings and online happy hours. And now that we are in the dead of winter (for most of us) I have become even more aware of the lack of opportunities for face-to-face time with real people.
My wife spent last weekend out of town at one of her good friend’s homes. I had four days to myself. By day two, I needed a break from the silence. I went to our favorite pub, where we frequent, and know the bartenders and some of the patrons as well.
In between chatting with the guys behind the bar and comparing bourbons with the gentleman on the stool next to me, I just sat and watched the room. Couples and small groups engaged in conversation; some seriously involved, some joking and laughing. All enjoying the camaraderie. The music, the lighting, the overall ambiance of the place was perfect. Man, did I miss this place!
The online world is here to stay, even once we get past the restrictions of the pandemic. But the face-to-face world must return. In-person meetings and in- person gatherings must happen. Not just at our local pub (although I’ll argue that part is important), but at our businesses and meeting venues and convention centers. People need to meet in person…to create those bonds, relationships and friendships.
Last week I joined the EDPA Midwest ZOOM meeting. While it was great to see familiar faces on screen—and “chat” with a few friends, it was not a replacement for the live meetings we used to attend.
I will admit, the use of technology during this last year has certainly made it easier for coworkers and friends to stay in touch (imagine not having any of this for the last year?), however, it is not a replacement for being in person. Either in a bank lobby or a pub or a convention center. Technology is not life.
See you on the show floor.
Jim Obermeyer has been in the exhibits and events industry 39 years, both as a corporate tradeshow manager and exhibit house owner. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This story originally appeared in the Mar./Apr. 2021 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 12. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_mar-apr_2021