Why are face-to-face meetings more crucial than ever?

August, 14 2019

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What’s the point of exhibiting at live events? They take time to plan, cost money and - in these technological times - we can get the same results with email or a face-to-face Zoom or Skype meeting, right?

Not quite. Although it might seem like the advent of digital tech has made live events redundant, it’s actually done the opposite: made them more necessary and impactful than ever before. Here’s why...

Relationships vs. conversations

There’s a big difference between a conversation and a relationship. Anyone can have a one-off chat with someone on Zoom or WhatsApp but, in terms of business, that’s not necessarily going to convert into a sale or longstanding relationship.

Good, long-term business relationships are not something you build through email or Skype calls - they need the personal touch. According to research from Great Business Schools, 95% of business leaders believe face-to-face meetings are vital for sustaining long-term business relationships.

We all communicate through non-verbal cues, much more than we think; body language, actual physical contact (a handshake or a hand on a shoulder), laughter, and facial expressions all help to build rapport and give context to what we’re saying. In fact, non-verbal communication can almost be more important than the actual words being said.

When we meet people face-to-face, we’re much more likely to chat and make small talk than on email or Zoom. This helps to build a connection and mutual empathy - and it can also reveal a lot about the person we’re talking to. In business, this knowledge plays a vital role. When you know someone, you can tailor how you speak to them or even what you include in your pitch. 

Paul Axtell, author of ‘Meetings Matter’, explains the psychology behind face-to-face meetings: “In-person meetings provide a sense of intimacy, connection and empathy that is difficult to replicate via video. It’s much easier to ask for attentive listening and presence, which creates the psychological safety that people need to sense in order to engage and participate fully.”

Trust - people buy from people

There’s a reason we say ‘seeing is believing’. When something (or someone) is tangible, in 3D, right in front of our eyes, mentally we take the first step towards understanding what we’re seeing, and when we understand something, we begin to develop trust.

Someone doesn’t have to like you to buy from you, but they do need to trust you. Which is why being physically present is so important.

The way someone is dressed, the way they walk, their micro-gestures, even the type of pen they use - these things help us get to know someone and ultimately decide if we trust them. You could infer then, that face-to-face meetings are a gamble and we’re all better off hiding behind our screens. In fact, this is exactly why live events have so much power.

In effect, when you meet someone face-to-face at a live event, you’re saying: this is me and I have nothing to hide. It shows that you care, that you’ve taken the time to be there in person, when you could’ve just sent out a mailer or set up a video chat. 

In a world which uses technology to communicate so frequently, having the confidence and tenacity to do this will set you apart from your competitors and serve to engender trust in you and your business.

Shared experiences

Shared experiences are good for the soul - they help us find meaning and make us happy. Think about that wave of euphoria you feel singing along with 2,000 people at a live concert, or the collective thrill of your team scoring a goal at a football match. 

Live events help people connect and bond, simply through sharing the same experience. Participating in a common experience gives us a sense of belonging, which in turn, creates feelings of positivity, as highlighted by an Eventbrite poll. The study found that 69% of Millennials believe live events help them feel more connected to other people, the community, and the wider world – and there’s no reason for other demographics to disagree. 

When you’ve met someone in person at an event, the memory of the overall experience and the meeting can be infinitely more positive and long-lasting than a video or phone call. This makes a big difference when it comes to following up on a lead. People get sent ebooks and emails all the time, but if they can put a face to your name and connect it with an event they enjoyed, you stand a much better chance of getting the outcome you want.

Focussed time

If someone attends a live exhibition or event, they want to meet people and make business connections. They expect to be approached. This makes them receptive to hearing what you have to offer. 

Conversely, if you call them on any other day, the chances are they’ll be busy or, if they do speak with you, their mind will be elsewhere. On video calls, people often multi-task by checking their email or looking at their phones. 

MIT’s Rhythm project proved the undeniable power and focus of face-to-face interactions. They used sensor badges to qualitatively measure human interactions by tracking performance drivers and collecting data on everything from tone of voice to body language. The results proved unequivocally that the most valuable communication is done in-person, and that around 35 percent of the variation in a given team’s performance was explained by the number of times team members actually spoke face-to-face.

Face-to-face meetings give you focussed, quality time. There are no distractions, you won’t be interrupting their work and communication is likely to be more clear, concise and direct. 

Thought leadership

If you’ve been given the opportunity to talk at a live event, grab it with both hands. Speaking at a live event gives you the power to gain instant kudos. You’ll be speaking to a large group of people from within your industry who have paid to be there and want to hear what you have to say. 

The fact that you’ve been selected by the event organisers automatically validates you and positions you as a thought leader. This puts you in the perfect position to develop business relationships built on trust.

When you speak to people after a presentation, you are already somebody in their minds - they’ve seen you and heard you, so they’re likely to feel some kind of connection. Instead of starting ‘cold’, you’ll already have a foundation to build on. It’s the same psychology which makes us like and trust celebrities or singers. We recognise them, and it’s this familiarity that makes us feel like we know them.

Senior Vice President of Caesars Entertainment, Michael Massari, believes that no amount of technology can ever replace the value and power of meeting people face-to-face. His company’s mantra says it all: ‘If it’s not that important, send an email. If it’s important but not mission critical, pick up the phone. If it’s critically important to the success of your organisation, go see someone.’ In an era of video calls and instant messaging, the value of live events shouldn’t be underestimated. Face-to-face meetings tap into our basic human need to be heard, seen and engaged - all of which lead to business relationships built on trust and empathy.

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