The Value of Face-to-Face: Why It Will Always Trump Social Networking
BY: RICHARD BERTCH ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 08, 2019
In this day of social media, it is tempting—especially for introverts—to rely on electronic communication as the sole means of business communication and networking. It is far easier to type a few sentences, post a photo and hit “send” then to get dressed, drive to a restaurant and have an hour-long, one-on-one business lunch with a prospective client. Yet, face-to-face meetings continue to hold an important place in the business world.
It is often cited that, depending on context, communication can be 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% the actual words. In a Harvard and Western University joint study, researchers found that face-to-face requests are 34 times more successful than email requests. Some CEOs champion face-to-face meetings over other types of electronic communication. There is, therefore, little doubt that face-to-face communication is a powerful business tool that every business owner should use to connect with employees and customers.
While social media can be appropriate for certain business purposes, there are other business occasions that naturally lend themselves to face-to-face meetings. Below are a few such situations where face-to-face meetings can be better than social media communications.
As mentioned above, about 55% of communication is through body language and 33% tone of voice. In a business negotiation, these non-verbal signals can help you establish rapport with a prospective customer so you can build a future working relationship. At the same time, being able to see the other person’s negative body language and hear the other person’s agitated voice can help you prevent accidentally breaking down the negotiations and lose the deal. No social media platform, even a semi-private one like WhatsApp, can let you use your emotional quotient to close a deal in the same way a face-to-face meeting can.
Stronger Team Building
Modern business often collaborate remotely, and team members physically located in different geographic regions often use social media tools such as Slack to “meet” to complete a project. While this type of remote collaboration can accomplish much work, an occasional in-person team meeting can increase inter-personal rapport and build trust among the team members. After such meetings, the team often can work together more smoothly than before.
Collaboration and Innovation
Everyone has a personal working style—introverts prefer to work alone and then present their work product to colleagues while extroverts like to brainstorm together and arrive at a solution as a group. However, no matter what a person’s work style might be, in the end they must come together to discuss the business project as a group. An in-person gathering simply gives a different energy than a Skype call or a Slack meeting. While Skype and Slack have their uses, adding in person meetings to the mix can raise the level of collaboration and innovation among your employees.
Some sensitive business communications are more appropriate for in person meetings. For instance, a yearly performance review should be done in person to better observe the non-verbal communication of both parties. As well, delivering the news of a layoff face-to-face instead of over social media or email can show a certain sensitivity to the situation that the laid off employee might eventually appreciate.
Clear and Concise Communications
Lastly, not everyone is a practiced writer who can precisely express meanings and nuances though written communications. Even with the aid of emojis (which are of course not appropriate in business communications) a joke can be misinterpreted and unintentionally offend, and a simple business discussion can turn into an argument. A short face-to-face meeting, even if it is dropping by one’s desk for five minutes, can deliver the message quickly and clearly.
Even in this modern day of social media, a face-to-face meeting can often be superior than electronic messaging. Nothing beats a firm handshake, the sincerity of looking at someone in the eye, or a smile showing genuine pleasure in getting to know the other person. While networking through social media has its uses, so do face-to-face meetings. Instead of saying hello via LinkedIn, next time, consider calling the person and inviting them to lunch. Such a meeting can create a bond no social media platform can.