MarketPlace on American Public Media had the following exchange between Kai Ryssdal and Phil Fernandez regarding Facebook’s pre-Initial Public Offering roadshow:
Ryssdal: But if it goes bad in one of these 10 to 15 minute meetings, you’re probably have like nine more set up that day, right?
Fernandez: Nine or 25 or something like that. I’ve done them from San Diego to Los Angeles to Denver to Minneapolis to New York, all in the same day.
Ryssdal: Yeah, sounds grueling. Sounds like not a whole lot of fun.
Fernandez: You know, it’s an incredible high because what you’re doing is one of the most exciting things in a career, and at the same time, it’s about as hellish as anything I’ve ever been through.
Ryssdal: This might seem like kind of a rookie question to ask, but why do we need roadshows? Why do you guys have to go do this? Isn’t there a better way?
Fernandez: You’d sure like there to be a better way. In all things, there’s this adage that says ‘people buy from people.’ And I think this is exactly what this is — it’s people looking people in the eye and choosing whether they’re going to do business with them.
The interview highlights a fundamental point that people connect with people. A corporation, (even Facebook) cannot create an emotional reaction by itself and with all it knows about us. The people involved with a cause are the ones who ultimately give it a heart and soul. This is why direct mail campaigns rarely move the needle when it comes to participation and transformative giving. It is easy to ignore or select a token gift in response. However, when your best friend takes you by the arm and says you have to have a very specific experience that resonates with your belief system, it can generate a chemical, biological, and physiological reaction. If you are moved emotionally, you are ready to do what you can in your power to make a difference.
So often we are afraid to meet face-to-face with another person and ask them to take action. We hide behind envelopes, emails, websites, and proxies. This offers a massive advantage to those who are willing to step forward and connect with a peer. Our fear keeps us off the stage and withholds our greatest gift, the ability to facilitate a shared experience.
If you are better than Facebook than perhaps avoiding face-to-face meetings is a realistic business strategy. For the rest of us, maximizing a human connection is the greatest act we can take on behalf of a cause we support.