Why face-to-face meetings are more important than ever
Today, we live in a near virtual world. With most communication happening online, it's not surprising that more and more business meetings are being conducted via digital channels.
And not just between clients and suppliers.
In many offices, people now instant message questions to colleagues just a cubicle away rather than poke their head over the top.
While there's a case for the convenience and speed of digital pow-wows, is it really the best way to connect with people you work with or service?
Here are six big advantages that a real-world meeting will often have over email, online chat, phone calls and even video conferencing.
Ability to read each other correctly
They say the eyes are the window to the soul. And while you may not be looking for signs of romantic love in your meeting, there are communication nuances that eye contact and body language convey.
These can help you gain a better understanding of how people feel about you and your ideas.
In other forms of communication where you rely on text or sound, even video conferencing where you are separated by screens, you'll often miss or misinterpret subconscious messages.
This is especially relevant when:
- meeting up for the first time, e.g. a new client meeting
- being introduced to new team members
- conducting meetings that need better understanding for more productive results, or to resolve issues.
Convey ideas more effectively
Further to the point above, if it's easier for you to read and understand people in the flesh, it's easier for them to do the same.
Plus, research has found that people are more likely to remember information and think creatively when they are in a foreign environment.
Be it a presentation, debate, get to know you or friendly chat between long term business associates, you'll have the added weight of eye-contact and body language supporting your words and messages.
This vastly boosts the power of your conviction and reduces the chances of being misinterpreted.
Focus 100% on the business at hand
Being there in person, instead of over a virtual set-up, cuts across technological dependencies of connecting.
Less dependency on technology and its uptime is one less thing to worry about. Also, being able to interact freely with everyone in sight allows for easy brainstorming and exchange of ideas more lucidly and effectively.
Add a stamp of authenticity and trust
Some of the most important and influential speeches and ideas have been well thought through and crafted written messages.
But even then, many of the most famous - I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, We Shall Fight On The Beaches by Winston Churchill, Quit India by Gandhi, How To Live Before You Die by Steve Jobs - were read to live audiences consisting of tens, hundreds, even hundreds of thousands of people.
Being live made it easier for the audience to trust both the message and messenger. They weren't hiding behind a camera or microphone. And this made it easier for people at home to believe too.
Face to face meetings also provide an added stamp of credibility.
Studies show a new client or a colleague are twice as likely to derive trust and credibility from a physical meeting than a virtual one. It's the validation of your authenticity.
An experiment done by the University of Chicago and Harvard found that negotiators who shook hands were more open and honest, and reached better outcomes.
Shaking hands causes part of the brain associated with rewards to activate. In that physical touch you are conveying warmth.
Weave in a more personal touch
There is also the appreciation factor that you have taken time and effort to organise a meeting at your end, or come over and meet on their turf. This can be a huge catalyst in winning over situations.
It's particularly effective in difficult situations that need a more personal approach. Better bonding, positive vibes and a sharing of an infectious spirit can only come from a face to face meeting.
Like when you share a laugh with friends, positive emotions spread in groups of business people.
Build lasting, stronger relationships
In a long-term sense, the impact of face to face meets sticks in human minds more than a phone call or video chat.
Sitting or standing in front of someone in the same meeting room or restaurant, talking and listening as though the things you are both saying are all that matter, can be immensely powerful in building lasting, trusted bonds.
Communication by phone, email, online chat and other digital channels is getting more advanced and 'real-world'. Anyone can Skype, Google Hangout or Facetime from anywhere in the world.
And it won't be long before virtual reality allows two people on opposite ends of the globe to slip into a pair of goggles and meet like they are in the same room.
However, there is something about being there with another person that humans need and want. It's why we still meet for coffee, take business trips, attend events, rent out space at share-officesand feel most comfortable around our friends and family.
The more technology evolves, and the more time we spend keeping in touch through plastic, silicon, polycarbonates, wires, glass and radiation waves, the more we'll crave and appreciate the unique intimacy of one person to another person.