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Why Technology Can Never Replace Face-To-Face Meetings

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Imagine this: You are about to buy your dream house after saving up for years.What will you do – Look up a couple of houses online, call the broker and  make the first down payment? Or would you rather take your time to explore each of the shortlisted houses, look at the neighborhood, meet the broker, talk to your neighbors and then decide?

My guess is that unless you are a multi-millionaire, you’d choose the latter option. As human beings, we like to experience things personally with all our senses before taking a decision. If one of our senses isn’t fully satiated then we would, in all probabilities, either postpone or go against the buying decision. This brings us to an important question – Can technology really satiate all our senses and accelerate the buyer decision process? The answer is No.

The biggest reason that favors virtual meetings is their cost effectiveness. However, a research by the Oxford Economics USA Inc. shows that when a company eliminates its travel budget for a virtual meeting arrangement, there is an equal reduction in its revenue & profits. It also indicated that a complete cut in sales business travel would result in a 17% drop in revenue in the first year and it would take over 3 years to get back to the pre-budget-cut levels.

After learning from their past mistakes of cutting travel budgets, companies are now increasingly spending more on face-to-face meetings. There is a growing mandate to measure the outcome of meetings and their impact on the sales pipeline. With the influx of technology into the world of B2B events, there is an increased focus on how meetings can be optimized better at trade shows, conferences, briefing centers and elsewhere. Tighter budgets are driving greater focus on measuring their effect on the sales cycles.  In an effort to increase ROI from in-person meetings at events, organizations are diving into more than just satisfaction surveys. They’re trying to determine what parts of an in-person meeting actually results in sales advancement.

Here’s why we believe that face-to-face meetings are irreplaceable. 

Touching the human chord is an absolute necessity:

People buy not because your product is out of the world, but because they can trust you or your brand. Trust building is perhaps the most important aspect of B2B selling. When expensive investments are at stake, people like to know who is it that they are dealing with. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and voice modulation provide more cues to the buying decision process than the words themselves. Video Conferences, conference calls , emails and other forms of communication are all building blocks to build and maintain business relationships. However, none of them are as impactful as face-to-face meetings.

Undivided engagement is crucial:

When participants are spread across locations, it’s hard to gaze the engagement of everyone present. While closing a large sales deal or conducting a demo, face-to-face meetings draw greater engagement from all parties. According to an infographic from CT Business Travel and NeoMam Studios,

  • 69 percent of people admit to browsing social media to pass the time during audio-only conference calls.
  • 47 percent of professionals said that they’ve lost a contract or client because they didn’t allow for enough face time.
  • 80 percent of millennials and 78 percent of Gen Xers prefer face-to-face meetings.

Meeting effectiveness is more important than number of meetings:

During a face-to-face meeting or boardroom conference, both parties can gather conversational feedback from the other right on the spot, gaze their understanding and provide necessary information. Virtual meetings, on the other hand, lead to conversations that are predominantly unidirectional.

Avoiding misunderstandings shortens sales cycles:

With in-person conversations, one can better gauge if it is moving towards a common understanding or whether the participants are tuned out of each other.Any miscommunication can be solved right then and follow-ups become easier. Also, people feel more accountable to respond to an email or message when they have met the person in real-life.

The fact remains that face-to-face meetings cannot be replaced with technology. However, organizations must strategically integrate face-to-face meetings and new meeting technologies.Technology must be used for reducing manual scheduling and execution errors so that event marketers can use more of their time in building meaningful relationships.

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