Thanks to tools like mobile phones, WebEx, IM, and video conferencing, it gets easier and easier for Allen to start and end a project without a face-to-face meeting. The benefits from forgoing travel favor both the client and me, the designer. The client avoids paying for travel expenses and travel time. I avoid jet lag and sleeping in a strange bed. I’m sure this list could go on. Of course there are cons. Yet more often then not the pros seem to out weight the cons. A recent client meeting helped remind me of the benefits.
Until technologies can simulate real-life (think Star Trek holodeck only real, not programmed). it’s impossible to read body language in a WebEx meeting. Since we (human beings) communicate up to 60% through body language a lot of information is lost. Now, I’ll admit some of this information can be recovered through questions and follow-up. Yet it’s easier to just watch a person’s reaction and make judgment than determine what they went by voice tone.
In our training consulting meeting, my project manager and I were trying to determine what the client wanted for the look and feel for a new course. We shared several different examples. Without saying much, we could tell that these examples didn’t excite them. The spark on their faces just wasn’t there. We followed up with more questions, and the client showed us in house examples that work and didn’t work. Before we knew it we realized that the client wanted something different that really appealed to the Gen Y demographic while using a limited color palette.
Now having just written that paragraph, even I think we should have been able to determine the custom training need by phone and email. It would be simple to email examples to the client. Then the client could tell us what they like and didn’t like. Unfortunately without understanding the end goal, we couldn’t give them a sample interface to work with. Upon returning to the office, a graphic artist created several new interfaces based on new feedback. Now we hope (crossing our fingers) that one of the sample interfaces is closer to the goal and that the client can relate by phone the small changes we needed to make.
While the face-to-face meeting was minor inconvenience to my life, it wasn’t a waste of effort. It gave us the ability to deliver a product that meets the clients expectations. At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.
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