‘Face-to-face’ –God I hate that phrase. Don’t get me wrong, F2F has its moments, like sex, although I can think of many, equally pleasurable positions! That’s the problem with the F2F mob – they’re missionaries with only one position, their face in your face. In the pub, out for a meal and in small discussion groups, that’s fine by me. In other words, it’s small intimate groups I like. But F2F on scale isn’t intrinsically good. It can be time consuming, unproductive and boring.
Trainers, with faces like thunder, whine about how it is necessary condition for learning (it isn’t), coaches and mentors (old counselling in disguise) see it as their lifeblood, teachers insist that children learn nothing without them being there, lecturers insist (against all the evidence) that it’s how real knowledge is transferred. Haven’t we all spent far too much of our lives in overlong and unproductive face-to-face meetings. In general, I’d argue that, in lectures, conference talks, training, classrooms and large meetings – being F2F is generally long-winded and unproductive.
There’s some curious contradictions here. Many of those who push the face-to-face argument, usually on social and collaborative grounds, work largely from home and support remote working. OK for me, but not for you, obviously. For a nation that fiercely defends F2F one has to wonder why no one speaks to anyone else in the train, on the bus or on aeroplanes. The English positively hate unplanned F2F encounters. F2F is great, they say, but only under strictly controlled conditions, and certainly not with strangers. F2F is only good when they get paid to tell you things.
The whole sorry F2F brigade present the case as if the world would collapse without it. What they really mean is that their world would collapse, as the recipients of their techniques are abandoning them for more convenient approaches free from the tyranny of time and location. F2F isn’t intrinsically good or bad, it’s just that too much of it is hopelessly inefficient.
F2F training companies are now facing the financial music with falling demand and prices. The old model is shot to pieces. Meetings increasingly use conferencing software. In marketing and training webinars have gone mainstream. In the face of mobiles, texting, messenger, laptops, iPads, Facebook, Skype, which all increase collaboration and communication, at the expense of the old inconvenient F2F model, society has gone volte face.