Why Face-To-Face Meetings Are So Important

Speed is everything in today’s tech-driven business world. In an effort to speed up even more, some so-called progressive business leaders are scrapping in-person meetings in favor of the latest high-tech solutions.

But this prioritization of speed over face time grossly underestimates the power of human interaction and the importance of face-to-face communication. If the point of business were simply to accomplish as many tasks as possible, then yes, an email would probably do. But that’s not what real leadership is about.

If you’ve ever been on the bad side of cyber miscommunication, you’ll agree that faster isn’t always better. When I find myself anxious to rush through an interaction, I repeat the mantra of “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

Managing a successful team — and, consequently, a successful business — requires personal connections. Business is, in large part, about building relationships. Being a successful businesswoman requires emotional intelligence as much as it requires drive and discipline.

Don’t Discount Face-to-Face Connections

I learned a lesson about the importance of face-to-face communication soon after I became CEO of my company and inherited projects across the globe. I could have sent out linear forms to every country director, deployed questionnaires, or even delegated the groundwork to my team. But instead, I spent the first year on the road, traveling from Haiti to Kenya to Thailand to Nigeria to the Philippines and everywhere in between.

In my travels, I met with our teams on the ground, asked questions, and listened to their concerns. These face-to-face interactions built trust, understanding, and a real sense of a shared mission, and this has made all the difference in the world.

That’s because you do business with people, not entities. The beauty of communication is found in the nuance that’s only felt in face-to-face conversations. This is especially important for women because we’re better at picking up on body language and changing emotions that can only be sensed in person. And when a whopping 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by non-verbal cues, talking face-to-face becomes more important than ever.

After all, it’s easy to misinterpret a text or email. Especially for sensitive or otherwise important communication, having tone and body language for context makes a difference. On top of that, meetings foster greater buy-in from staff and stakeholders.

A lack of in-person communication, on the other hand, means constituents miss out on the reasoning behind decisions, making them less likely to engage. What’s more, it’s easier for them to feel less accountable. When making any kind of request, the probability of getting your desired answer is greater when you have a face-to-face meeting.

Get the Most Out of Your Meetings

Although in-person meetings have the potential to deliver great value, people don’t want to come out of a meeting feeling like they just wasted an hour. To get the most out of your meetings, practice the following:

1. Prepare beforehand. Send your team facts and figures before the meeting, so you won’t waste valuable face time silently reading together. This will help your meetings run at max efficiency.

2. Keep people on their toes. To keep your meeting short and action-oriented, remove the chairs. When people are standing, unnecessary chatter will be kept at a minimum.

3. Be selective. As women, it’s often hard for us to say “no” to requests. But you need to weigh each meeting against your objectives and make sure it will be beneficial.

4. Set expectations. Let your team know the approximate length of the meeting ahead of time. Going in blind will only draw out the meeting much longer than it needs to be.

5. Listen. You have one mouth and two ears for a reason. And fortunately for us, women are better listeners than men. Ask a few thoughtful questions, but make sure you’re actively listening.

Recognizing the importance of meetings doesn’t mean you have to give up efficiency. As my company undergoes a transformation, I’ve found that my teammates and I are united on the foundation we built with our face-to-face interactions. As a result, we’re even more efficient because we trust each other’s judgment.

In today’s fast-paced world, you can’t forget to embrace humanity. Take time to genuinely get to know people because they are your best assets. Understanding why people do business is more important than understanding what they do, and this kind of understanding is only attainable through in-person interactions.

Mina Chang is Chief Executive Officer and President of Linking the World International

Mina Chang