I was reading an article regarding the growing popularity of using technology for virtual meetings. With all the technological advancements in “communication” we no longer need to have face-to-face meetings. Fire up the computer, internet and one of the myriad programs and voila! We can be in pajamas or even naked and the only ones that will know that we are naked are the cockroaches that we scare away.
Interesting that, according to the article and their research, 95% of professionals believe that face-to-face meetings are key to successful business relationships. The research indicated that 47% say that they have lost a contract or client because they didn’t meet them face-to-face enough.
Research indicates that 80% of millennials (1980’ to early 2000s) and 78% of Gen Xers (1960s to 1980s) prefer face-to-face over virtual meetings.
I have written before about the need to be in the presence of those with whom we communicate so that we can evaluate the nonverbal cues that carry about 55% of the message. The words and intonations carry the remaining 45%, however, in audio only meetings, we know that you are texting or checking email. According to the research 69% admitted it and the rest lied about it (I made the last part up from my own unscientific survey of two people).
And 60% regularly misread tone or message when communicating via email or phones. This is why I do not consider email a communication method. I consider email a means of disseminating one-way information. The sender would do well to not expect that information to be fully understood by the receiver.
Reading about the importance of face-to-face encounters, I am reminded of that old airline commercial. The scene is a boardroom. An assistant is handing out airline tickets to everyone in the room. At the head of the table a man says something like. “I received a call from an old friend today. He says that he is moving his business elsewhere because we have not paid enough attention to him. We are going to start paying more attention to our customers.”
As they walk out, we see that he has an airline ticket in his back pocket. Someone asks where he is going. He replies, “I’m going to see and old friend.”
As I was writing this, a relatively nonessential fax-related piece of electronic equipment failed in the office. I made all the varied attempts to contact the manufacturer without any success. This took about 45 minutes total consisting of the requisite phone on hold till we perform a courtesy disconnect (3 times!), an email response from tech support to contact their website, and 20 minutes of “all our chat people are busy now.” I gave up vowing never to buy from that manufacturer again. How appropriate was that to the fact that we no longer have real contact with real people.
Face-to-face contact will always matter. We travel to expos and conferences and association meetings to shake hands, smile, establish camaraderie, see old friends and make new ones. We crave human contact. It’s in our nature. Even our dogs and cats can’t replace people although they often come close.
I know that some of you will say to me, “This is the 21st century, old man. Get with the times. Virtual meetings are the present and the future and technology shall continue to pass your butt by.” My reply is simply that I will probably not be around to attend the virtual wedding of your children nor your virtual funeral. I will however, make sure that you receive virtual gifts and virtual flowers.
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