The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Are those virtual meetings really hitting the spot? Are FaceTime and Facebook adequate substitutes for face-to-face? Are we truly connecting through LinkedIn? It has certainly never been easier for businesses to maintain relationships, but do conference calls, emails and social networking somehow miss the qualities that actual presence can bring to the meeting table?
According to our research there is plenty of lip service still being paid to face-to-face: 95% of professionals believe such meetings are key to maintaining and building successful business relationships. Yet 48% of business owners are spending less time with their clients than they did five years ago, and 47% of them feel that contracts have been lost simply because they didn’t meet stakeholders often enough.
In our infographic we reveal just how businesses feel about face-to-face meetings and we compare this to exactly how they actually maintain their relationships. Surprisingly we find that 80% of the video conferencing Millenial generation still prefer an actual to a virtual meeting.
What is it that matters about the handshake compared to the hangout?
- Important but subtle visual cues, like body language, can be indiscernible when communicating virtually.
- That real-time element aids the development of rapport and ideas, which technical glitches and hiccups can interrupt.
- Personality tends to express itself less stiffly from the comfort of a chair rather than behind the glare of the screen.
- Research has shown that trust is easier to establish where there is less distance.
- Perhaps, though, it’s simply that 80% of us prefer to meet face-to-face. It’s the only FaceTime we really believe in.
Our infographic shows exactly why businesses believe that face-to-face will always matter, in spite of their growing investment in virtual conferencing suites.
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Why Face-to-Face Will Always Matter
Over the last decade, technology has drastically changed the way we communicate. But in the dynamic world of business, is it worth holding on to traditional face-to-face meetings?
Face-to-Face Meetings Today
87% of professionals believe face-to-face meetings are essential for sealing a business deal.
95% of professionals believe face-to-face meetings are key to successful business relationships.
48% of business owners admit to spending less time meeting clients in person, compared with 5 years ago.
47% say they have lost a contract or client because they didn’t meet them face-to-face enough.
You might assume more modern generations are the ones leading the charge for virtual meetings, but Millennials prefer face-to-face meetings when communicating with colleagues.
80% of Millennials (birth years early 1980s to early 2000s)
78% of Gen Xers (birth years early 1960s to early 1980s)
Virtual Meetings Today
Virtual meetings can vary widely in their levels of presence:
While virtual meetings are becoming more realistic, they can never quite substitute meeting someone in the flesh.
69% of people have admitted to browsing social media to pass the time during audio-only conference calls.
60% of people regularly misread tone or message when communicating via emails or phones.
Importance of Face-to-Face Meetings
Face-to-Face meetings have a number of benefits, including:
Body language and facial gestures are subtle visual cues that can reveal what people are (or aren’t) saying – an aspect lost when communicating virtually.
People tend to assess how well their ideas are accepted by how quickly others respond. Virtual meetings can sometimes be met with technological delays and disruptions.
Sideline conversation opportunities
Discussions during breaks help team members deal with decisions and issues in ways virtual meetings don’t allow.
Better organization identity
Attending meetings in person can help people see for themselves what an organization’s culture is like.
Whereas virtual meetings are typically ‘strictly business’, face-to-face meetings can allow for humor and personality to shine through.
It’s easier to evaluate and judge other people’s skills in person. Research has proved trust is built faster face-to-face.
There’s No Substitute for Face-to-Face
Some things that just can’t be replicated by technology include:
The Hand Shake
A firm, friendly handshake is a greeting exclusive to face-to-face meetings.
Shaking hands stimulates the brain’s reward center, the nucleus accumbens, making people more amenable.
The First Impression
It’s often said “you never get a second chance to make a first impression“, and research has found this to be true. Here’s the neuroscience behind it:
The amygdala and posterior cingular cortex combine to deduce a person’s character. It does so by taking information from the brain’s memory banks and decoding the social nuances it sees.
With face-to-face meetings, people have a better chance of forming positive impressions – using their body language and voice.
According to researchers, the persuasiveness of a person involves:
- Maintaining eye contact
- Head nodding
- Moderately loud vocal tones
- Fast speech
- Forceful and open gestures
- Fluent speech
- Pitch variation
Though improved video communication can show these behaviors to an extent, the nuances of body language are still hard to gauge when you can only see a cropped image of a person.
Virtual meetings may be useful for casual catch-ups and relaying information quickly, but they’re no substitute for human contact and the clear communication that face-to-face interaction brings.
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