The Value of Face-to-Face Meetings in a Digital World

Client relationships are strengthened more effectively in face-to-face meetings than through technology

Nowadays there are all kinds of ways to conveniently contact and stay in touch with one another any time—mobile calls, emails, texts, etc. There are even technologies, such as Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, that take things a step further and enable us to have virtual meetings with clients that offer almost the same experience as an in-person meeting. Yet, the key word to remember from that last sentence is “almost.”

Even with the convenience and time/cost savings associated with the aforementioned technologies, they still fall short in delivering some important benefits to sustaining healthy client communications and relationships. Non-verbal communications, emotional cues, and more focused engagement are all major elements of face-to-face meetings and enable deeper and more nuanced dialogue and understanding than possible through an email or even a Skype session.

This classic United Airlines TV spot perfectly sums up the very real consequences of allowing your client relationships to rely on electronic rather than in-person engagement. Yeah, we know United was trying to sell seats on flights. But we’re also willing to bet that the story told in the spot was inspired many times over by real-life events.

Here are a number of important advantages that in-person meetings have over conducting an exchange via emails and texts:

  1. Immediate emotional and tonal read on the client. When you’re in a live conversation with someone, you can quickly gauge the atmosphere of the meeting. Does the client want to get straight down to business or do they want to chat awhile and warm up to the matter at hand? Are they giving you subtle but noticeable cues that they don’t agree with what you’re saying? When you’re facing a client, you can easily take the temperature of your client and adjust your approach/message accordingly. An email, text, or even phone call doesn’t give you a full picture and increases the chance of you misinterpreting a client’s statement or response.
  2. A better environment for collaboration and discussion. Short written messages in emails and texts tend to invite immediate reactions—which can sometimes be detrimental to the productivity of the dialogue. A face-to-face meeting allows for more thoughtful exchanges, confirmation of understanding, and a better foundation for creating the path forward. For discussing sensitive or complex subjects, or any topic in which you cannot afford even a minor misunderstanding, face-to-face meetings are always a better option than an electronic exchange.
  3. In-person meetings support faster resolutions. When you meet someone in person, there is often an investment made in time and effort, especially if significant travel is involved. As such, there is an inherent urgency to advance the purpose of the engagement in meaningful and productive ways. Emails and texts often prolong or delay discussions and potential actions; while they undeniably offer instant opportunities to start or continue a conversation, they rarely foster a climate that leads directly to the best, most thought-out solutions. Ultimately, in-person meetings can sometimes be more efficient in advancing a process or solving a problem in the long run.
  4. A greater sense of being on the same team. Digital messaging between you and your clients sometimes creates an artificial—and undesirable—“you” vs. “us” dynamic. When discussions are held in person, there is usually a more tangible feeling amongst all participants of working collaboratively to come up with a solution beneficial to all.

Don’t get us wrong—we’re all for technology that enables us to connect instantaneously with one another with minimal fuss and cost. But it’s important to understand that, despite their many benefits, they still cannot replace the valuable interpersonal dynamics that take place in face-to-face interactions.