Anybody really listening to this conversation?

What would happen if we gave human beings our full attention?

Over the past few weeks I’ve attended a few networking meetings, one hosted by the Boston American Marketing Association  and one hosted by Women in Business Connecting. The discussions and presentations were topical for me as a marketer and I bumped into some old colleagues and met some new people. 

The AMA focused on analytics and had some interesting panel speakers that were very forthcoming about the challenges they face as marketers, particularly in this rocky economy.  It is refreshing to get that honesty at a business event. The WIBC featured David Meerman Scott a thought leader who looks at how we leverage the Internet to connect directly with customers. He’s a funny and engaging speaker and I follow his blog.

The reason marketers and business people go to these events is to network and learn more about connecting with customers right?  In Web 2.0 parlance we’re all engaging in “The Larger Conversation.”

So, we want to be part of a conversation.  Conversations are with people, right?

But guess what?

Many of us are not paying attention to the human beings right in front of us.

Around me people at these events played with their cell phones, Crackberries and iPhones. They could have been Tweeting, checking email or compiling a grocery list for all I know.  Actually, I do know what one couple was doing. It seemed like they exchanged cell phone numbers so they could send text messages. Or maybe they already knew each other. They were sitting right next to each other and right next to me.  I guess for a Boomer like me that would be like “passing notes” in high school, right? 

They’re not listening.

How many of us are guilty of “email voice.” You know, when you are on the phone having a conversation with someone and suddenly you decide to check your email?  Guess what you sound like to the person you are talking to: “Uh, yeah, ah, oh, right, yeah, um, ok.”

We’re not listening.

Oh, I’m no saint.  I once sat at the dinner table with my family and then jumped up to check my laptop for an “important work email.”  Then there was the time I updated on FB and Twitter while my son ate his cheerios and told me a story about rockets.

I’m not listening.

What would happen if we gave live human beings our full attention for that moment?

What do we risk missing when we don’t?

Do we really have to be plugged in 24/7 and so highly distracted?

What do you think?

Are you listening?

If you liked this post, feel free to leave a comment on link below.

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6 responses to “Anybody really listening to this conversation?

  1. Loved the post. I try so hard not to iPhone around my kids, but I fail miserably. I try to remember what message they are getting from it.

  2. Hi Amy,

    It was interesting. While I was speaking at WIBC, I had everyone’s attention. Maybe because I had some fun YouTube videos for people to watch. But you’re right – before and after the actual speech (and I see this at other events too), people are afraid of missing a voicemail or email instead of speaking to the person beside them.

    How about we have a bucket to leave mobile devices at the door?

    David

  3. @Amy – Someone gave us a toy cell phone that Jack insists talking in the car all the time

    @David. A bucket for mobile devices would be a terrific idea. “Check your coat and your distractions at the door.”

    Sarah

  4. Maybe it’s humanity’s attempt to stretch our mortal time here: we think we can get more time by splitting our attention span into smaller pieces. But of course, we just end up with more, less valuable bits.

    I went to a child’s birthday party at a gymnastics studio, with lots of fun things for parents to watch the kids do. I live-posted pictures and comments on Facebook. It was a huge distraction from “the moment,” and I figured I won’t do that again – the novelty will wear off. But it occurred to me that a problem of our techno-fetish modern societies is that we accrue new and novel distractions as fast as we discard the last fad.

    Have you noticed that, since PowerPoint, a speaker and an audience have essentially lost the 1 to 1 connection of the pre-visual aid era? In the old days “a talk” really was “A Talk”, where the speaker spoke directly to the audience, perhaps with some reference materials on an overhead or blackboard. Now everybody stares at the projected screen – even the speaker! It seems like we’ve moved away from the “conversation” mode of speaker+audience into something that’s more like listening to a commentary.
    I don’t think any screen presentation could impress me as much anymore as hearing a speaker who speaks directly to and engages the audience, and uses little or no visual aids.

    TEDTalks are a good reminder of the power of ideas and dynamic speakers. Here’s a roughly a propos one “in praise of slowness”:
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/carl_honore_praises_slowness.html

    Chris

  5. @chris. Great thoughts. We have so few 1:1 connections and I agree one tool of distraction does replace another. In the case of the gymnastics studio video, keep in mind you are creating a wonderful memory for all that attended. That is a good use of your time, not a bad one.

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