As 2019 gets into gear, businesses are connecting with clients, suppliers and other stakeholders, with planning sessions and workshops. It’s tempting to conduct some or all of those sessions by teleconference or video call, or by email. But Dawn Weir, head of kulula work says there’s solid evidence to suggest that there’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings.
Apart from the notorious connectivity problems with video calls, you place yourself and your brand at a disadvantage by just dialing in, logging on or bashing out an email. “Of course there’s a role for conference calls and emails. But relying on them to build or maintain business relationships does your organization a disservice,” says Weir, who points out the following:
- Flying can get you in the zone: most of us lead rushed lives, balancing work and life, and dealing with traffic and seemingly never-ending to-do lists. Being a passenger on a commercial flight is one of the rare occasion that you have very little choice but to sit while someone else takes care of getting you to your destination. You’re insulated from the world for a while, and trained professionals take care of your every need. This can, says Weir, be quite helpful. You can spend the time buffing up on notes for a meeting, working on a presentation or spreadsheet, do a mindfulness exercise, or just take a nap.
- You won’t miss cues and clues: face-to-face meetings, whether they’re with a big group or one-to-one, offer insights through body-language and social interaction and dynamics. Is there harmony in the team or is there tension between the sales director and the MD? Is the team energized or lackluster?
- You can be off the record: if all the delegates are in the same room, you can decide on whether a crucial conversation is off the record, or whether, for example, you decide on the Chatham House Rule, where information disclosed during a meeting may be reported by those present, but without identifying who said it. “Delegates may simply feel more confident in non-disclosure agreements when meeting in person to discuss sensitive matters,” says Weir.
- You can focus or break free: Weir says, “Most of us will have had the frustrating experience of having a phone or conference-call with someone who you know is multitasking or distracted. Getting everyone around a table can help ensure that Kevin from IT Support isn’t messaging his Crossfit Whatsapp group when he should be taking notes about the new software switchover. It also means you can meet over coffee, sushi or even while walking, all of which will free your mind and those of your delegates.
- It takes time: Perhaps the most important aspect of meeting in person is the fact that’s more time-consuming than other contact. That’s important, says Weir, because it’s a manifestation of the value you place in your relationship with the person you’re meeting. It demonstrates a level of commitment and a willingness to focus on them. “Business travel is very affordable these days, thanks to budget airlines like kulula, but the tangible act of taking time to meet with someone shows you’re serious about the relationship.”
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