Collaboration and conferencing tools have made the way we communicate super fast and convenient and are essential for conducting day-to-day business. But when it’s very important business, nothing is as effective as a face-to-face meeting.
To prove our point, here are seven reasons why when the stakes are high and it’s imperative that you make a positive impression, it’s worth the time, money and energy to travel and turn up to the meeting in person.
1. It can be harder to understand each other when it’s done virtually.
Virtual communication can be riddled with annoying technical difficulties. There may be issues with email delivery, poor video/audio quality or a call suddenly dropping out just as someone is making a salient point.
It also can be difficult hanging on to a person’s every word during a call, especially if they have an accent you’re not accustomed to hearing. Things easily can get lost in translation with video/phone calls because you cannot rely on body language to drive a point home. There also may not be as many opportunities to have misunderstandings clarified when the speaker cannot see a hand spontaneously go up or a confused facial expression.
2. When done virtually, it’s harder to keep a captivated audience.
From the silence that can drag on while waiting for everyone to join the conference call to the distractions participants may experience in whatever physical environment they’re in when dialing in, it can be more difficult capturing people’s attention during a virtual meeting. And if one speaker is dominating the conversation, those who are listening with the mute button on may be inclined to multitask, responding to emails, catching up on the daily news.
Because it also can be harder for those on the listening end to get in a word edgewise, this type of call generally doesn’t foster a constructive back-and-forth discussion. Opportunities to express concerns and creative solutions may get lost.
3. You cannot pick up on body language through the phone or a 20-inch screen
According to an oft-quoted study that Prof. Albert Mehrabian conducted in the 1970s, 93 percent of our communication is conveyed through nonverbal cues, including body language and tone of voice. That means merely 7 percent of our communication is based on the words we actually speak.
Now consider how that translates to virtual vs. face-to-face communications. We all know from experience how the connotation of an email often gets misinterpreted. And sure, your tone of voice can come across during a video or telephone call — albeit not as cleanly and crisply as it carries through during an in-person meeting.
But more importantly, consider how much body language plays a role during business negotiations. A warm smile can indicate your approval, whereas raised eyebrows may express doubt or displeasure. You immediately can capture someone’s attention and learn a lot about their character when looking them directly in the eye and can get a read of the relationship during that initial handshake.
4. It’s much easier to reject someone via email than it is in person.
If you’re selling a service, product or idea to a potential client, you are less likely to persuade them if your interactions are conducted via email. Many of us can relate to this on an experiential level when considering how many messages we ignore or trash on a daily basis, especially when the sender is not someone we have met in person before.
But don’t just take our word for it when there’s actual science backing up this theory. According to a study featured in Harvard Business Review, face-to-face requests are 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than emails. So consider this stat the next time you’re trying to influence someone about a monumental decision, whether they sit 10 feet away from you in the office or they’re at a desk thousands of miles away.
5. To build trust, you need to be able to look someone in the eye.
Fostering a business relationship takes time, especially when you are trying to woo someone whose culture is very different from your own. In countries like China and Brazil, it’s customary to interact and bond with a colleague or client on a personal level before carrying on with important business. To earn their trust, you need to invest that face time. It’s entirely easier to engage someone and win their approval when they are right there sitting across from you at the table rather than as a 2-D image on your computer screen.
6. There is so much information you can gain at an in-person meeting.
When you pay close attention, there is so much rich detail you can extract about another during a face-to-face meeting, from their body language, mannerisms and tone of voice to how they enter the conference room and greet you and the small talk shared before getting down to business. All these clues provide context and can guide you on how to tailor your pitch. And remember, this works both ways, so be conscious of what you are projecting yourself!
7. Business travel need not be such a strenuous experience.
Of course, there’s no way getting around it. The travel involved to make face-to-face meetings a reality can be costly and exhausting. But we here at American Express Global Business Travel can help take the sting out of business travel, both financially and logistically. If you are seeking a travel management company to ease some of the pains associated with business travel, please contact us. We’d love to arrange a face-to-face meeting!