Technology has been reshaping the enterprise communication scene over the years. While we can still pick up the phone and dial a long-distance call the traditional way, most of us are using online services for conferences and meetings.
Getting a team or business partners scattered across various locations to sit down in one room can sometimes be challenging. Online meetings can save tremendous time and cost relating to commuting and traveling. The omnipresence of online meetings in today’s business world is also giving way to an increasing number of conferencing technology and innovations for better user experience. We are seeing automatic transcription features (as a result of advances in A.I. and deep learning), improvement in audio quality, real-time translation and we are expecting more to come.
So, in an era where we have digital solutions for almost all business activities, what is the value of offline, face-to-face meetings?
The Value of Offline Meetings
There’s something technology simply cannot replace ー human connection.
Bodies don’t lie
Our bodies can communicate and reveal informationー vocal tone, facial expression, eye contact, posture and facial expression just to name a few. Most of the time these nonverbal signalings are more honest than our carefully chosen words as they are most likely to be automatic and performed subconsciously. Our brains are able to pick up on this information from others and reveal rich information about that person.
It can be hard to gauge reactions, non-verbal cues and attention when people are far away, especially during online calls where we rely only on the choice of words. Having an in-person meeting allows individuals to feel the room out, have a better idea of what others are actually saying or implying, and how well they understand the information being communicated. Sequentially, one can adjust and adapt their communication style and pace to better engage the audience.
The power of a handshake
When you’re in a room with new business partners, prospective clients or colleagues, a thorough introduction, which isn’t always the case in video conferences, to each meeting participants is made possible. Most business relationships begin with a handshake and deals are often closed with another.
Apparently, a handshake can go a long way. A 2018 research examined how a handshake can influence deal-making and negotiations. Researcher Juliana Schroeder, assistant professor in the Berkeley Haas Management of Organization Group, states that the simple gesture has a psychological effect, changing the way we perceive another person and framing a cooperative setting. Studies in the research showed participants who shook hands before a negotiation reached a greater agreement and tend to engage in more conversations after the negotiation.
According to another study by imago and Loughborough University School of Business and Economics, face-to-face communication can most effectively influence business contracts and deals negotiation. Next time you are closing a deal, consider creating more face time with the partner!
Creating trust-worthy and meaningful relationships
Offline meetings allow us to go beyond business conversations, they serve as valuable opportunities to build meaningful business relationships, and more importantly, trust. When you meet in person, chances are you and your meeting partners will engage in small talks before, throughout or after the meeting that can reveal unique insights. In fact, many breakthrough conversations quite often happen casually.
Seeing things with our own eyes gives us a sense of trust and legitimacy. Imagine there is this prospective business partner in another city, what better way to understand their business operations, company culture and organization than to immerse yourself in their work environment? There are things simply difficult to communicate and get a full grasp on a call or video conference.
Going beyond a meeting
We dial in a video conference or a conference call, get the work done and press “End Call”, and then carry on with our own daily agenda. Instead of going separate ways after shutting down the computer screen, offline meetings can often lead to interactions outside the meeting room. For example, you may want to take a co-worker from an overseas branch to explore the city or perhaps impress a prospective client with an indulgent dining experience.
Online or Offline?
Meetings can be completely virtual or in-person, or a mix of both. Most major corporations are adopting all three formats, so when do we decide a face-to-face meeting is the best approach?
Meetings and events are best done offline when sentiment plays a big part or where relationship building is the key focus, for instance, kick-off meetings to motivate the team, client meetings, or networking events.
If, due to some restrictions, it’s simply not possible to have everyone coming to the meeting in person, try bringing in as many attendees in the same room as possible and use technology to bring others to the room virtually.
Be selective when considering the best meeting mode. For meetings that are operational such as weekly catch-up for project updates, these may do well with an online meeting, but more complex and strategic activities may benefit from some human interactions.
In the next article, we’ll give you some tips on building and nurturing meaningful connections among your attendees at a large conference.
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