Videoconferencing technology has made it possible to conduct business meetings from anywhere and any device, which is a huge convenience for many busy entrepreneurs and executives. However, sometimes it's still worth it to make the time for an old-fashioned face-to-face meeting with your business stakeholders.
Richard Harper, co-chairman of Meetings Mean Business and executive vice president of HelmsBriscoe, said face-to-face meetings are an important way to create personal connections, drive business opportunities and support local communities. Here's how small business owners feel about in-person meetings, along with some tips to make the most of face time with clients and partners.
Some topics are best covered at in-person meetings.
There are certain discussions and decisions that are best made when all parties involved are meeting face-to-face. Negotiating agreements, training new employees, engaging with the community, networking, finding potential hires, building partnerships and exploring new business opportunities all ranked as the top subjects small business owners agree are best done in person.
It's worth it to travel for meetings.
The survey found that all of the top reasons to travel for in-person meetings help to grow a business's bottom line. Making connections with vendors and business partners, and obtaining new customers or business leads are the top two reasons for traveling for a meeting. Ninety percent of small business owners plan to spend as much or more on travel for meetings in 2017 as they did in 2016, the survey found.
"When asking to attend, host or travel to an in-person meeting, stressing the value and return-on-investment to the decision makers will help them understand why meetings are so critical," Harper said. "Not only do they develop relationships in a more personal and meaningful way; they help businesses win new customers, close new deals and develop high-performing talent."
Tech-focused small businesses value off-site face-to-face meetings.
All of the tech-focused small businesses surveyed said meetings yield a return on investment, and this is why they value face-to-face meetings more than other small business owners as a whole. These types of small businesses place high priority on networking (75 percent), and prioritize industry conferences and trade shows (81 percent).
Overall, 91 percent agree that connecting face-to-face with customers and attending or presenting at conferences improves their ability to run their business.
To make the most of the time, money and effort spent on your meetings, it's critical to give full attention and dedicate time to building relationships with other meeting attendees, Harper said. Networking and taking the time to sit down one-on-one help to forge the type of relationships that can't be developed over email.
"It's much easier to say 'no' to someone if you've never met them in person," Harper said.
"After the meeting, take any new skills or learning and share them with colleagues to facilitate knowledge sharing so that everyone can benefit," Harper added.