In December, a client lured three of us to Vienna for a meeting. With the added promise of Christmas markets, we naturally accepted the invitation.
Our trip didn’t begin well: we travelled from Edinburgh on the wings of a storm, missed a connection and spent about seven hours at Schiphol airport. We arrived in Vienna just before midnight, many hours later than planned.
Of course, the point of the trip was neither Christmas shopping nor sightseeing. We were visiting to meet our client and exchange ideas, and what a productive (and enjoyable) meeting it turned out to be: our meeting lasted from 9 am until 6 pm, with lunch at the promised (and impressive) Christmas market.
Meeting face to face allows the sort of informal discussion that other forms of contact don’t. Email tends to be focused on the task in hand. Conference calls can require a lot of concentration to pick up who is saying what, without the help of visual cues. Even videoconferencing, which is commonplace for us now, has its limitations.
Actually being with people and having time and space around the formal agenda helps to build relationships and create opportunities for mind to spark against mind.
We were delighted to see how excited our contacts were at the technical fixes we can offer for routine tasks. Making changes automatically using our suite of Word macros, even if some of them need to be undone by human intervention, frees up time for the real editing work, which requires informed judgement.
One advantage we have in being a small company is that we don’t have barriers between our technical people and our editors, and there are no cumbersome bureaucratic procedures for changing or customising our cleanup macros. We were able to show our hosts the sort of thing we can do. Comments we made in passing prompted them to mention options that we didn’t know they wanted and they didn’t know we could provide. These types of interaction are almost impossible to achieve by email.
It was also encouraging to establish how much common ground we have. Many clients don’t have an in-house team of professional editors, but this one did. We were editors talking to editors. We understood their requirements and constraints, as they did ours.
We left Vienna feeling that we had accomplished something worthwhile, and with a strong impression that our clients felt likewise.