With virtual meetings, conference calls and webinars, who really needs to meet in person these days? Meeting face-to-face is time-consuming, perhaps even unnecessary. Holding meetings online or via conference call is much more efficient and productive, right?
But then the line goes silent and the computer freezes. Is the moderator taking a sip of water, or were we disconnected? Does a lack of questions mean muted conversations are being held behind the scenes? Are people actively engaged, or checking their email? What was the look on your colleagues' faces when you pitched that idea?
Wait – what do your colleagues even look like?
If you really want to build a relationship or inspire a team of people, Skype won't cut it – you've gotta get old school. Shake hands with your clients. Look your employees in the eye. Just getting everybody in the same space goes a long way toward getting everyone on the same page.
Unlike the all-too-often reading between the lines of an email (“Does the lack of an exclamation point in this weekly sales update mean I'm getting fired?”), let body language do the talking for you. Let them see what they can't on a computer screen: your enthusiasm, your earnestness, the twinkle in your eye when you talk about your product.
Using coworking spaces or a virtual office for in-person meetings are inherently easier for persuasion and audience buy-in, no matter what you're selling. Getting employees on board with a transition, showing clients your latest and greatest, or motivating your team to keep making the donuts.
A 2013 survey by Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts found 81 percent of business men and women believe face-to-face meetings are better for building long-term trust and ensuring strong client relationships – in fact, nearly half said a lack of in-person meetings led to a significant revenue loss. A recent study by Cornell University's Center for Hospitality Research concluded face-to-face meetings are better at setting the groundwork for collaboration in three ways:
- Inspiring positive emotions
- Building relationships
- Capturing attention
Everyone is a little more present and accountable with his or her cell phone tucked away and on silent mode. There's less multi-tasking (does tweeting count as multitasking?) and more listening.
Even the down time is valuable – small talk can be pretty revealing (as we've all learned at the office water cooler). Audio-only meetings deprive participants the chance to gab over a cup of coffee, to build relationships, and have the experience of really knowing other people on the team. Developing that trust can help you tailor your message and communicate more effectively.
Sure, planning an in-person meeting takes time. That's the point. It's the first step in showing someone you care (and getting them to care back). In an age of quick-fire emails and distracted phone calls, a message delivered face-to-face stands out.