The importance of face-to-face meetings
In an age filled with the immediacy of the Internet, the disclosure of social media, and the endless amounts of developing technologies, it’s easy to forget the importance of real life conversations, with real people, in real time. There truly is nothing like a face-to-face meeting.
With the ease and speed of wired technologies, such as Skype, email, instant messaging and conference calls, it’s easy to get swept up in the digital age. Digital technologies give you the opportunity to hide away in your office or cubicle and interact with your clients or coworkers strictly on a digital basis. Although this is efficient and may be the easiest route for many project details, we’re beginning to miss the benefits that come along with physical interactions and face-to-face meetings.
First and foremost, knowing your client on a human level is critical. Although you may exchange upwards of 20 emails per day, not connecting on a personal level through shared experiences or even simple small talk, can mean the difference between a mutual long-term relationship and a one-time freelance project. Business Meetings in a Modern World, a survey done by Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts stated that 87% of businesspeople in the UK think face-to-face meetings are better for building long-term trust and ensuring strong client relationships.
Spending time with a client will give you a deeper sense of who they are, how they operate, and their personalities on both a personal and professional level. Being able to put a name to a face helps build trust and gives your client insight into your personality and character. Business Psychologist, Hazel Carter-Showell, found that social aspects such as small talk and sharing refreshments are an important part of client relationship building. Her research states, “They enable trust to be built through sharing commonalities and increased exposure to positive traits, such as predictability.” Connecting on a level beyond task-oriented emails and phone calls will deepen the level of trust between both parties, making for a more successful outcome.
Secondly, body language and physical reactions, including both verbal and non-verbal cues, are important aspects of decision-making and relationship building for many business people. Carter-Showell also found that the most important elements to build trust are eye contact and reading non-verbal cues. “We can tell a smile is genuine because it reaches the eyes. The muscles by our mouths are under conscious control, but the muscles that crinkle the eyes and pull down the centre of the eye brows are only activated when we smile genuinely,” she said.
Meeting with a client face-to-face will ensure that these body language cues are observed, and will make the client more comfortable to make critical decisions. According to survey respondents, discussions such as starting a new business relationship, finalizing a deal, and contracting negotiations, are all preferred to be conducted face-to-face. The physical reactions and cues that come from such discussions can be great insights into whether a deal, a campaign idea, or a new business proposal is received positively, which would be impossible in a virtual setting. These are some of the most essential functions for a profitable and successful business, so having physical meetings and interactions is imperative.
Thirdly, meeting with a client face-to-face leaves little room for misinterpretation. In fact, for 74% of study respondents, the key advantage of face-to-face meetings compared to virtual meetings is that there is less risk of misinterpretation. You can’t sense sarcasm, informality or a sense of humor through a computer screen, and you surely can’t clarify information instantaneously, as you are able to do in a face-to-face meeting. Physical meetings will take any guesswork out of the development of a project, which makes for a more efficient process and saves both parties the time of having to initiate an additional digital communication to clear things up.
With today’s wired world, face-to-face meetings are important in building trust and establishing relationships. Digital meetings or communications can save time and money, but there are times when something as simple as a handshake or eye contact seals the deal. Face-to-face meetings strengthen relationships, reinforce information sharing and generate trust.
And after all, according to the survey, “Trusted companies have higher morale, productivity, lower employee turnover and create deeper relationships with their customers.”