We rely on an amazing amount of technology to stay connected to our business partners and teams: phone, email, text messaging, social networking sites, and video conferencing. How do we choose the most appropriate mode for the situation?
A Time and Place for Face-to-Face
One of the obvious benefits of meeting in person is the ability to pick up on body language and other non-verbal cues. (Most agree that emoticons are a poor substitution.) Whenever possible, we try to meet with our clients face to face, especially for kick-off meetings. It’s part of our commitment to personalized customer service, and it helps us to get to know and bond with our clients.
According to a Forbes Insight survey of more than 750 businesses, 58% percent say they travel for business less today than they did at the start of the recession in 2008. And eight of ten executives say they prefer face-to-face to virtual meetings. Those surveyed who prefer face-to-face meetings cite social interaction, the ability to more easily persuade, greater accountability, and a better environment for decision-making as primary reasons for their preference.
The Value of Virtual Meetings
We acknowledge that face-to-face is best, but we’ve learned to take advantage of alternative ways to communicate when needed. Many companies rely on virtual meetings when face-to-face is not possible, too expensive, or too complicated to arrange. Without virtual technology, keeping in touch with international and opposite-coast clients would be much more complicated.
Last year, Shannon and I had the opportunity to travel to Germany and Denmark to meet with our clients at Vestas. After a single face-to-face kickoff meeting, we had spent several months meeting and collaborating virtually. When we finally did meet face to face we found that the relationship we had forged with the aid of technology was solid and it felt as if we had always had the advantage of face-to-face interactions.
Meeting virtually helps businesses accomplish certain tasks more efficiently without squeezing the budget. Virtual meetings can also enhance face-to-face communication. When we reserve the “less important” topics for video calls, we can make better use of time when we do have the chance to meet in person. Discussing project scope, timelines, or team roles, for example, can all be done online and then expanded upon during a face-to-face session.
When we plan a virtual meeting, we plan a succinct agenda send any materials ahead of time that may be relevant for our call. The Harvard Business Review has an excellent list of tips for making the most of virtual meetings.
So really it’s not an either/or question. Knowing when and how to use virtual communication helps to strengthen and enhance business relationships in new and exciting ways. What are some of your tips for balancing face-to-face and virtual communication?
By the way, we’re still waiting for someone to invent the “morning mask” for early-a.m. video call.