When Crowne Plaza surveyed 2,000-plus businesspeople worldwide on the relative merits of virtual and face-to-face meetings, the results put in sharp relief the benefits of in-person contact in business dealings.
Eight out of 10 respondents in the survey said face-to-face meetings are better for building strong client relationships, according to Crowne Plaza’s new “Business Meetings in a Modern World” report. And nearly half said they had lost a client or contract because they failed to hold enough in-person meetings.
But it takes more than simply meeting face-to-face to ensure a positive outcome. Business psychologist and meetings expert Hazel Carter-Showell, who worked with Crowne Plaza on its research, offered the following tips for successful face-to-face meetings.
1. Invest time at the start of a business relationship.
Put greater importance on face-to-face meetings at the start of a business relationship. The more time you spend in someone’s company the quicker you can build a strong and confident trust-based relationship.
2. Connect before you meet.
Nearly half (47%) of business men and women build trust before meeting via social channels.
Carter-Showell suggested using social media to research a business partner before meeting, as it may lead you to discover a mutual connection or shared business relationship, which will help you establish a rapport when you meet.
Be sure to look into how your business partner uses social media culturally and whether Facebook is a better place to connect than LinkedIn, or perhaps even *Weibo if it is a contact in China.
3. Meet in the morning.
Respondents in all countries agreed that morning was the optimum time to meet in order to have a successful meeting, ideally on Monday or Tuesday.
Aim to meet late morning if possible. People usually have more energy in the late morning as body temperature starts to rise just before we wake and continues to rise through the morning as concentration and alertness gradually improve. Also, a meeting will be most productive if there is time afterwards to act on agreed-upon actions.
4. Know the signs.
Look for signals of discomfort with what’s been said. These tend to be “freeze, flight or fight” response, such as reduction in movements, leaning away or jaw-clenching.
Also, note actions such as biting lips, clasping, fingers, rubbing head or neck. These generate serotonin and serve as pacifiers that we use to calm ourselves, the adult equivalent of sucking one’s thumb.
5. Be smart with your mobile phone.
Mobile phones and laptops are common accessories at meetings, but be careful about how and when you use them. Just over two-thirds of people said colleagues checking their phones was a big nuisance in meetings.
6. Choose meeting locations wisely.
People may perceive your choice of venue as reflecting the importance you place on the relationship.
Two of the most frequently given factors for success in a business meeting were comfortable chairs (53%) and temperature (59%). To be comfortable is to be free from distractions, and that allows people to focus on the task at hand and engage.