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I’ve always prioritized face-to-face meetings when I can secure them. Why? Because the best business partnerships are purely successful relationships, something that cannot be changed by the stroke of a pen. Rapidly evolving communication tools such as social media, email, texting and virtual meetings are essential, and I use them all the time, but they are not the DNA of a lasting relationship. The integrity of a handshake, the strength to look someone in the eye, or the closeness of sharing a meal or drink with someone can’t happen on a Zoom call.
When making crucial decisions in business, you need to have interpersonal connections. At my global leadership and talent consultancy, Boyden, if we are recruiting or about to place someone for a company or if we are trying to bring in a valuable customer, the final decision cannot be made through Zoom. We’ll hop on a plane or prioritize meeting people in person because we are mans. We have to are with another. While virtual calls, texts and emails have their place and are very effective, we need to get back to business as usual to be together “in real life” in situations where crucial decisions need to be made.
I grew up traveling the world with my father, where all business interaction was in person, whether it was on a sports field or over a glass of wine. When I launched my marketing and public relations agency, TO BEAT! Media, I registered the trademark “Public Relation(ship)s®” because I learned the importance of face-to-face meetings. Below are seven reasons why face-to-face meetings will help you be more successful, grow stronger teams, and build the best relationships, and why I’ll never stop them.
Related: 5 ways to build killer customer relationships
1. Reading emotion
Body language and facial gestures are subtle visual cues that reveal what people are or are not saying – an ‘aspect’ that can be lost in virtual communication. Posture, hand and foot movements, and even someone looking at their watch while you talk to them reveal a lot about how you connect with them and vice versa. I wouldn’t hire someone who doesn’t seem engaged or with whom I don’t feel chemistry. You are unlikely to feel this emotional chemistry and connection in a virtual meeting.
Related: How To Know If Someone Is Manipulating You Based On Their Body Language
2. Talk in real time
It is much easier to judge how well our ideas and goals are accepted by how quickly others respond. Virtual meetings have disruptions, distractions and delays.
A few years ago, when I was looking for a big client, I drove a few hours to meet them and had his undivided attention. Our questions and answers poured in well. At the end of the meeting, he admitted to me that he had interviewed other agencies for a marketing position, but that I personally impressed him with the way I articulated my ideas for driving growth for his company. Our meeting took longer than expected, and it was clear that he was confident in his decision to hire me on the spot, as we had no distractions and our conversation flowed smoothly. And he did.
3. More effective communication through non-verbal signals
It’s easier to interpret nonverbal cues when you’re face-to-face. Whether it’s a smile or direct eye contact, these interactions create much stronger engagement and help build stronger relationships. Up to 93% of communication takes place through non-verbal cues, including small movements of the face and body and voice quality.
I have traveled the world and am fluent in three languages and proficient in two others. I learned that body language and gestures vary by culture and can be easily misinterpreted through a screen.
Related: A negotiation expert shares the 4 body language signals every business owner should recognize
4. Limit distractions
It has been proven that people look at themselves a lot during virtual meetings and can be self-conscious. It’s one of the reasons I wrote a piece about why you should feel free to turn off your camera on Zoom and, especially as a leader, encourage teams to do it when it’s not necessary.
People are distracted by virtual conversations. Many tend to multitask by responding to texts, reading articles, or having a muted TV in the background. Face-to-face encounters foster an environment for focused attention.
5. Collaboration for creative and new ideas
I am a visual person and love whiteboards. How words are written or pictures are drawn stamps an impression in my head that sparks creativity for more ideas. In-person collaboration meetings are useful for strategy where team members can start a conversation and share their thoughts without feeling like they have to raise a virtual hand and/or talk over each other. Live meetings encourage camaraderie and culture growth, and it’s much easier to read someone’s emotions and passion when you’re with them.
6. Reducing wasted time and technological problems
How many times have you lost connection in a virtual meeting, been unable to hear someone, spoken only to realize you were muted, or even worse, you did the opposite!? Between software updates on virtual conferencing platforms, poor service, and camera and audio issues, these nuances are distracting and sure to encourage people to forego effective communication. We’ve all had virtual calls that are inefficient or a waste of time due to the technology challenges of the meeting.
7. Difficult conversations and tackling challenges are best personal
Transparency, trust and an open communication culture are inextricably linked to difficult conversations. Technology throws up barriers that make these conversations even more challenging, as there is less trust when people don’t know each other personally. Looking someone in the eye allows you to express empathy and makes it easier to read their body language when you’re around them. When there’s transparency and a human connection, it’s easier to create a deeper level of comfort among each other, even if the outcome of the conversation could have a negative impact on someone. For example, if company revenues are falling and the board is asking for cuts, it’s easier to explain in person than over a phone call, mainly because of the transparency.
People have emotions, passions and goals. We like to be recognized and appreciated for our values, ethics and achievements, as well as being supported when we are going through a tough time, be it work, family or personal. This can be most effectively achieved in person as we develop a deeper understanding, empathy, respect and trust for each other. This can be most effectively achieved in person and by showing that we care, listen and are fully involved. Likewise, if you’re looking to rock star or land that big client, you’ll personally be most successful for the same reasons.