“After years of trying to connect using various new forms of technology, businesspeople are recognizing that no matter how good the tech is, it can’t replicate the energy of being in a room together,” says Jeanne O’Brien-Coffey, columnist for Executive Travel magazine. “The emphasis today is on engagement and innovation at the corporate level. Because of that, the face-to-face is coming back.”
That said, both budgets and staffs have shrunk, which means modern meetings tend to be shorter and more efficient, notes O’Brien-Coffey, who has covered the meetings industry for 20 years. This need for speed may explain why meeting at the airport has become a growing trend because it allows both parties to get in and out of town.
When is face time most valuable? Any meeting that involves brainstorming or networking is best done in person. “You just can’t build rapport over the phone,” says O’Brien-Coffey. Meetings involving important negotiations are also more effective in person, in part because body language provides important clues. If someone slumps in their chair, fidgets, or communicates in other nonverbal ways, the other people in the meeting can use these cues to attempt to uncover what’s causing behavior, redirect the conversation, and improve its outcome.
To get the most out of any face-to-face meeting, develop a solid agenda beforehand, and stick to it. “People are stretched thin, and no one wants to feel like they are wasting time in a meeting,” says O’Brien-Coffey.