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Director’s Desk: Communication That Matters Most

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by Terry Nathan


Communication That Matters Most

A friend of mine died a couple of weeks ago. He was only 46.

Doug was the friendliest person I have ever known. I met him in ninth grade, and that summer I was tucked into the back of his family’s station wagon on a month-long trip up the coast of California, through Oregon, and on to the northern tip of Washington. What a memorable trip that was, and what a memorable friendship we had!

Doug never owned a computer, never sent an email, and was certainly never on Facebook. He was one of those people who would come over unannounced, huge smile on his face, arms open wide. Everyone remembered Doug, even if they had met him just once. It came as no surprise to me when I showed up on the beach to attend his service that close to 300 of his friends were already there. As I listened to friend after friend share their wonderful memories, I thought, This is what it’s all about—getting together, face to face.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m telling you this. It’s because technology is moving faster than the speed of light, and, in my opinion, we are all far too reliant on email and the other interactions it fosters. The world of social networking is pushing these interactions to a level and at a pace that makes my head ready to explode.

If you ask me, although the new technology is very powerful, no smiley- or winky-face looking at me from a cold computer screen will ever replace an in-person embrace or the wink of a human eye.

Think about the people in your life who leave the greatest impression on you. And think about how you interact with them. Sure, email and Facebook and Twitter allow you to stay connected, but without that initial or ongoing in-person interaction, relationships are sure to unravel.

Then remember that long-term relationships are the single most important aspect of any business. They are the key to making a name for yourself and your business, and they will be few and far between without in-person contacts.

This may be even more true for your business life than it is for your personal life. In-person contacts give you a time-tested way to make an impression. And many times a good impression is all it takes to open the one door that leads to success.

I am not suggesting you shun the new methods of communication. I am suggesting you get out there in front of people and supplement your virtual interactions.

We are living in an unprecedented time, with new opportunities to communicate popping up at every turn—and no end in sight. We are also living in a time when more books are being published every year than ever before. To survive in this ever-changing, overwhelming landscape we need to keep up with these new forms of communication. But if you couple the new forms with some personal interaction, chances are you will not only survive; you will thrive.

Over the past few years, as the technology jet has been flying along faster than any of us ever imagined, I made a commitment to myself to be more available to help anyone who comes my way. I am now increasing my commitment to connect with people face to face.

Internet Interaction Pitfalls

Many people have already commented on the dangers that come with communicating over the Internet. Here are three that we see at the IBPA offices almost every day.

Misinterpretation. One of the beauties of email is the speed with which we can get back to each other. I love it. But with speed come mistakes and, perhaps even worse, misinterpretations. I know this from personal experience, and I am sure you do too. It is just in the nature of the beast.

During an in-person conversation, misinterpretations are quickly prevented or corrected through body language, quick questions about meaning, and otherwise.

Trust. How many orders have you received by email from Nigeria? Did you know that some people have interns answering their email? And what a shame that is. Sure, there are ways to charm and be charmed by email, but I would never seal a deal without getting to know the person behind it.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or perhaps I should say Mr. Hide. I think we all know at least one person who turns into a troublemaker behind the security of a computer ID.

Expressing opinions is clearly important to our free society, and the Internet has allowed more people to have a voice. But unfortunately some people confuse expressing views with libelous behavior and spewing venom.

Face-to-Face Opportunities Coming Up Fast

May is the perfect time for me to remind you of the value of in-person interaction, since some great book-business events are coming up at the end of the month. The 25th Annual IBPA Publishing University will take place May 26–28 in New York City, followed by BookExpo America. These gatherings provide two excellent opportunities for you to get out there and meet key people in our industry.

I hope you will be able to attend, and I also hope you’ll be able to open one of those doors to success by being there. If you do attend, please be sure to find me so we can shake hands, look each other in the eye, and say hello.



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