Once upon a time, we walked the earth without the ability to call people on the phone whenever we wanted to. Phones existed, but they lived in our homes only—severely limiting our calling power. And then, a brilliant inventor named William Gray came up with a gamechanging concept: the phone booth. They appeared in public places and right out on the street—drop a coin in and make your call. It was amazing, convenient and just what we needed…until we needed more.
At which point Martin Cooper invented the cell phone in 1973. Et voila—we could now make phone calls from wherever, whenever, to whoever we wanted. It wasn’t until the mid-90′s that everyone started walking around with cell phones (and that they were small enough to actually do so). Now, as you know, everyone has a mobile phone. And so, we’re connected to everyone, all the time.
I noticed the funniest thing the other day. There I was walking down the street, talking on my phone like pretty much everyone around me…and I passed a phone booth. I realized that I must pass them all the time, they’re everywhere. But they’re empty. The actual phone has been removed because we clearly don’t need it anymore…we’ve surpassed that simple, public phone call. The phone booths though? They’re still there, taking up space, often holding an advertisement (that data shows is more effective when delivered through targeted, mobile technology), but without context, purpose or function.
They’re just standing there doing nothing.
Hmmm. Kind of like scenery.
Corporate meeting scenery was big in the 80′s and 90′s. At the time, it was a viable and productive solution: handsome wood framing hoped to show the solidity of a company; plastic replicas of chemical compounds pushed to convey cutting-edge medical advancements. But, it was so quiet. Hard scenery doesn’t make people laugh or cry or get goosebumps—because it doesn’t really say anything.
Today, you might walk into a meeting and see nothing but a stage and a 140-foot screen. You might think there’s nothing there, certainly no statement being made. And then the meeting begins and the screen changes color, holds video, tells stories…even looks like wood or plastic…or whatever you want it to do. Most importantly: it speaks. It speaks to and for every moment of the meeting—always connected to the meeting goals, to the audience, to the company.
As technology tends to do, it keeps moving forward, offering us more and better ways to send a message, create an environment and deliver information. In a few years, screens might be obsolete and content will appear on stage in holograph form, there’s no telling.
In the meantime, tragically, like the old abandoned phone booths, we still see the old scenic sets at certain meetings. Shells of their former selves, but empty and speechless…their ‘oomph’ having been ripped out.
And un-tragically, we see (and make) that ‘oomph’ spin a whole new way…the scenic equivalent of the cell phone—totally connected to everyone.
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