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‘It felt good!’: The reality of getting face to face again

David Taylor, non-executive director at BCD M&E and the Exclusive Collection, gives an account of his first face to face meeting post-lockdown…

It was with mixed feelings of excitement, relief and concern that I set off for my first client face to face meeting since 4 March. Concern for not only my health but also if my suit and shirt would still fit after four months of sedentary living at home.

The latter, I am pleased to say was not a problem, mainly due to my daughter introducing me occasionally to her morning routine with Joe Wicks and my wife convincing me that grapefruit should be a daily staple! However, it was the ‘actual physical meeting of people’ that had kept me awake the night before as I wrestled with my conscience. Was this foolhardy or was it a measured risk that we should all start to take to get things rolling again?

David Taylor

David Taylor

Although for the most part, I have enjoyed the novelty of virtual meetings, like many people though, I have now tired of the digital world and miss the pleasure, fun and affirmation that only human contact can bring. I was itching to meet real people again.

Let’s get physical (safely!)

Having arrived at my meeting destination, I was ready for the new protocols I had been told would be in place and I had additionally brought with me my own mask, bottle of water and hand gel. I was greeted outside the reception by a masked employee, with the appropriately branded PPE clothing, and asked to register my personal details, whilst an infrared handheld temperature gun was aimed at the forehead.

The red dot illuminated momentarily, reminding me of a Mossad assassination documentary that I had recently seen on Netflix. Having passed the temperature test – I was led, at a comfortable distance, back outside to our meeting point. This was a four-sided open garden tent, like the ones you get at Homebase, where a table and four chairs were set up ready for our meeting. The table was bare and the chairs were positioned two metres apart and half a metre away from the table.

I was then shortly joined by my three meeting guests, who like me resembled masked highwaymen. Greeting each other was a rather clumsy business – no one quite knew if we should bump fists, elbows or just wave at each other. It felt like the first time my daughter brought her boyfriend home to stay over – very uncomfortable for all concerned. However, this British farce moment was over in a jiffy and we all quickly settled in the time-honoured small talk before broaching the real reason why we were at the meeting.

Reading the signs

It does take quite some time to get used to what people are saying. Masking the face and nose clearly poses problems and you definitely have to listen hard to pick up every word. Yet it was the inability to read the emotion and get a sense of how people are feeling that posed the greatest challenge. You can’t see the simple nuances that we all take for granted that tell us if a point has landed or you are going down the wrong track. The eyes can tell you a lot but they don’t always give a true reflection of how someone is thinking – you need the whole face to do this.

We sat speaking for an hour, made good progress and clearly it was an effective meeting as we all had many actions that came from our powwow. It was certainly different and more challenging than meetings pre-Covid but it was real human connection made and it felt good.

I had this meeting just as lockdown ended at the end of June since then I have had a further three such meetings. It’s amazing how quickly we adjust to this new situation. We will all need to decide for ourselves when we are comfortable to meet face to face and the precautions and actions taken will depend on so many variables. For instance, I live in the Surrey/Hampshire countryside where there is an abundance of outdoor meeting spaces which I do not need to use public transport for – so my risks are different from someone who lives in central London.

Whatever you decide and whenever – stay safe and stay connected – digitally or physically.