Face-to-Face Business: More Effective or Unnecessary?


– By Nicole Freeston

This debate never gets old. In terms of building relationships with family, friends and new acquaintances, we continue to receive flak for maintaining these relationships virtually via technology, opting to text, snap chat, or skype instead of meeting physically. As part of Generation Y, I see this in myself, my peers, and those younger than me. You can miss out on genuine interactions through digital connections, but can we say the same for business?

Even with advancements in technology, it’s still common for sales reps especially to spend days or more travelling, simply for short one hour meetings, as well as in-person seminars, shows, or presentations. However, with the ongoing trends of international business including clients within different locations and time zones, we are seeing an increase in webinars, virtual trade shows and conference calls. Products such as GoToMeeting, Google Hangout and On24 allow companies from all over the world to participate in webinars and virtual tradeshows while also enabling meetings between business partners who are geographically separated.

These mediums can prove useful and reliable especially when that is the only form of communication available when face-to-face interactions are not possible. However, even if in-person meetings are an option, we are seeing many companies leaning towards the virtual option anyway. Perhaps it saves time and money and goes along with where the industry is going. It would be interesting to see the results when comparing face-to-face interactions in the business world against virtual ones. Would the results really differ that much? Should we still value face-to-face meetings and the more genuine connections that can come from them?

I’m a sucker for the good ol’ face-to-face thing. Though I appreciate a good webinar or something visual, I think it’s important to place value on traditional interactions with clients, business partners, and potential customers. Even in a job interview, Skype interviews are pretty common but I’m assuming an employer is more likely to hire someone who they met with in person rather than via telephone or video chat. Time Management Ninja agrees with me, saying that distance should not be an excuse for not meeting face-to-face, and that even video chat is much better than a phone call.

Here are 5 reasons that Time Management Ninja offers in defence of face-to-face meetings

  1. Body Langauge is Communication – We tend to forget that body langauge plays a major part in our communication. It is not just how you said something, but also your facial expressions and body posture. This is lost in a phone conversation.

  2. Ensures Engagement – Who knows what people are doing while on conference calls. (You might not want to know.) However, face-to-face leads to engagement. It ensure that people are “in the conversation.” I was on a video call with an executive one day, when I suddenly stopped the call. The VP had leaned over and was having a separate conversation with his assistant. When he turned around, he apologized, “Oh, I guess you could see that.”

  3. Clarifies Meaning – Conference calls can lead to misunderstandings either due to lack of communication (See #1) or simply because the medium is not conducive to individuals asking for better meaning. It’s much harder to raise your hand on a call than it is in person.

  4. Drives Participation –  When you are all in the same room, it encourages people to participate. You can’t just go sit in the corner and turn your back to the meeting. Yet, this is exactly what many people do on conference calls.

  5. More Efficient –  Face-to-face meetings tend to be shorter than conference calls. On the phone, everyone sits around on mute waiting for the discussion to end. Yes, this can happen in a meeting room. However, in face-to-face situations there is a greater pressure to get to the point.

Whatever your preference, the presence of face-to-face meetings may decrease more, but maybe there is a time and a place for both online and offline interactions, depending on what will produce the best results.

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