A Forbes Insight survey revealed that 8 out of 10 executives said they preferred face to face meetings as opposed to online or videoconferencing to build more meaningful business relationships. This proves what I’ve always believed to be true, that no matter how much technology we have, nothing beats a good ‘ole fashioned face to face meeting for putting together a strong business network.
A friend of mine who runs one of the most successful concert promotion businesses told me that he started his business with the idea that he would always make a point of meeting a potential customer or partner in person no matter where they were in the world. And he has stuck to that to this day. He’s racked up millions of frequent flyer miles and traveled to almost every country in the world.
His extensive phone book isn’t just for show. Because of his years of using this business tactic, he can literally pick up the phone and get almost anyone on the phone. And if he doesn’t have their number, he knows someone who does. But he accomplished that by building his network one person at a time and meeting them face to face.
A recent survey by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition found that 96% of small business owners got a return on investment with face to face meetings. For this reason, over 90% of those same small business owners say they plan to continue going to live meetings and events. This is good news for anyone who works with small business owners. Make sure you find out what conferences and events they attend and arrange to meet them there in person. This is also true if you want to work for a small business. Many say they prefer to find potential employees at a live, face to face event.
Here are some reasons why small businesses should have face to face meetings:
- Body language – Meeting someone in person gives you so much more insight into them than simply talking on the phone or corresponding through email. Our brains process non verbal cues like body language and facial expressions, that we can only get through a face to face meeting. One of the best ways to make someone feel validated is through eye contact. This works especially well if the person you’re talking to agrees with your point of view. So, if you click with someone at a live event, make sure you use plenty of eye contact. If you don’t click with them you can quickly move on to someone you do click with. This is the beauty of face to face meetings. If you work them right it can actually save you valuable time by only connecting with those people you really want to work with. Rutgers and Radboud University researchers found that eye contact combined with sudden motion makes it more likely that people will notice you and remember you.
- Feedback – Standup comics, public speakers and live performers say they love the idea of audience feedback. You can instantly gauge whether someone likes you or your ideas by their reactions. Texts and emails can easily be misinterpreted. But with a face to face meeting you can alter and adjust your communication on the spot based on what you pick up from the other person. You have the opportunity to physically show the other person marketing materials and put them in their hands. If you send the same ones through an email attachment it may never get read. You can get their opinion instantly and be able to take notes on how to improve them.
- Tactile interaction – Scientists have shown that the symbolic ritual of shaking hands fosters trust and cooperation. It’s an indication of a person’s character. Is it a bone-crushing shake or more like a limp noodle? Both of those speak volumes about a person’s personality. This is something you would never know about through a text, email or phone call. People are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. Just a fraction of a touch gives off the impression that you are warm and generous.
- Social Interactions – You can learn a lot about someone by the way they treat other people. Are they dismissive to the wait staff or the people cleaning the building? Are they a big tipper or a Scrooge? Are they way too difficult to please? How do they speak to other people? These are all big clues to someone’s character and a good barometer of how they will treat you. Before you go into business with someone you can make a good decision based on how this person really is and not just the image they want to portray in a static email.
- Competition – No matter what you do, there will always be someone at a live event in your industry who is competition for you. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, you should use it to your advantage. If you’re a vendor at a show, you should be learning from your competition. What are they doing to attract attention that you aren’t doing? Which companies are getting more business? Is there any way you can partner with your competitors? As a visitor/observer what can you learn from watching competing companies that would help your own business?
Live, face to face meetings and events aren’t going away. Even with new technology coming out constantly, no technology will ever replace the human connection.