Meeting Professionals International, AZ Business Magazine September/October 2011

Face-To-Face Meetings Are Still Relevant, Despite Technology

Face-to-face meetings are back: Despite teleconferencing and technology, study shows meetings that provide human contact — face-to-face meetings — are still relevant.

As technology provides businesses with cost-effective means for communication with cloud technology, smart phones and Skype, one element among these virtual options will never be outdated — human contact.

MPI, Photos: Courtesy of MPI Arizona and Mark Skalny

Sure you can conduct a business meeting with your staff convened in a conference room to other parts of the country via teleconferencing. But meeting face-to-face is as personal — and effective — as you can get.

Dirk Smith, president and founder of Sports Destination, Inc., says face-to-face meetings haven’t fallen out style. “They might have fallen out of favor because of the economy,” he adds.

Jen Merkel, operations manager for CMI Resources, says she’s seen some scaling back in meetings, but lately, “in general, our clients seem to be back booking like they always have.”

In the white paper, “Why Face-to-Face Business Meeting Matter,” by Richard D. Arvey, professor at the Business School, National University of Singapore, it states that while business attributes 84 percent of communication to emails, teleconferences and other technology, meetings that provide human contact are still relevant.

Arvey states that physical meetings provide people with a way to build trust, figure out social norms, develop social identities and engage with each other. It also provides better business outcomes, with more negative outcomes associated with virtual meetings. Offsite meetings at hotels were surveyed to be 94 percent productive.MPI, Photos: Courtesy of MPI Arizona and Mark Skalny

“Technology makes it possible to connect with people from your own office, couch or pool deck, but when was the last time you made a new contact that way?” Merkel questions. “When a person attends a conference, they meet new people and have new experiences that are so much more than just looking at a laptop screen. Face-to-face conferences are far more enriching than virtual ones.”

In making efforts to be in the same physical space as other colleagues, co-workers or clients, “there is a perceived value in making the effort to physically meet,” Smith says. “Also, if you want to show off a product, to touch or feel something has intrinsic value for people. You can’t get that from a picture. People need to experience the value of interaction.”

Face-to-face meetings are important, but human interaction can sometimes create more complicated situations. Smith says face-to-face meetings tend to fail when there are no agendas, clear goals, important information, entertainment, or way to meet other people.

Merkel says he believes if your speaker isn’t engaging or meet the audience’s expectations — then attendees walk away with feeling they’ve wasted their time. One way to combat this is to ask audiences questions addressing these areas after meetings.

Another way is  to “listen to your planners,” Merkel adds. “They want the meeting to be as successful as you do, try to give them a little free reign to get creative and shake things up.”

Avery concludes in his paper that while teleconferencing and other virtual elements may be used by business, the key is to figure out the balance of virtual and face-to-face for creating a successful workforce.

Check back next Friday, September 16, to read what Meeting Professionals International members had to say about the importance of face-to-face meetings.


Arizona Business Magazine September/October 2011