The 7 Times That Meeting Face-to-Face is a Must

facetoface2Let’s face it: one hardly needs to sell meeting planners on the importance of face-to-face exchanges. After all, it’s their stock in trade. Day in and day out, their effectiveness depends in large part on mastering the art of bringing people together.

Now if we could only convince the rest of the human race, right?

Ironically, the age of ubiquitous digital connectivity has in some ways made meeting planning more difficult, as devices have freed everyone from corporate executives and hoteliers to executive chefs and wait staff from the inconvenience of face-to-face discourse. Despite the many benefits of mobile technology, it often has the opposite effect of making us immobile, at least where non-mission-critical gatherings are concerned.

As a result, it often falls to meeting planners to explain – nay, to advocate – for face time by extolling the many benefits of person-present interactions. Of course you know them by heart; they’re etched in a meeting planner’s DNA.

But for the benefit of those who need convincing, here are 7 situation for which face time still has no equal, even in the digital age:

Immediate feedback: If you want genuine reaction when brainstorming an idea or solving a problem, face to face is the way to go. No lag time, no pause before hitting reply; just the looks alone on the faces of the assembled can tell you more than a flood of e-responses.

Initial engagement: How many times have you “met” someone via phone or email and wondered what they’re really like, what they think of you, and whether you can trust them? Eye contact, a handshake and how they present themselves in person will often answer these questions instantly and serve to form a stronger relationship quicker than a remote exchange.

Personal priority: When the task involved is personal, whether it’s a disciplinary action, performance review or other potentially-contentious exchange, email has a way of making things worse by magnifying the differences in competing points of view. While a face-to-face exchange is no guarantee that everything will end in bear hugs and air kisses, it eliminates a lot of the electronic static that can impede constructive conversation.

Full attention: Can you imagine what would happen if your group gathering gave your face-to-face meeting the same fractured, multitasking lack of attention we give to electronic exchanges? That’s precisely why we hold meetings: to capture their undivided attention.

Build trust: As any team leader well knows, the odds of building an effective team increase exponentially if the members actually have an opportunity to meet and interact face to face.

Close deals: Traditionally the world ’round, major deals are best closed face to face with a handshake, triumphant grin optional. Whether the task is persuading someone to hire your team, commit to a course of action, tweak a contract or bump your salary, do it in person; never by phone or email.

Build consensus: When consensus is the goal, a face-to-face exchange is the shortest distance between two or more points of view. Why? Because we often cast our “votes” nonverbally through facial expressions, hand gestures and eye contact or lack thereof. You can’t read any of these electronically, even over Skype or a smartphone. Some companies believe so strongly that personal exchanges prompt greater creativity that they periodically institute “email-free days” to encourage employees to get off their gadgets and collaborate old-school.

Case made, the only question that remains should be, “So I’ll see you at the meeting, right?”

Photos: Shutterstock

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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