Culture Change with Face to Face Meetings

face2face

In a time of needing to get several things communicated quickly (email) or elicit a response immediately (texting) or stand out from the rest of the communication tools (messaging), it’s easy to forget about the value of face to face time. Yes, our time is precious. Yes, we are all multitasking, all the time. No, there are not enough hours in the day, but there never really have been. And while we have made it possible to walk around with a computer in our pockets, they have also made it very easy to step away from the thing that has connected people for thousands of years; face to face engagement.

Whether we have become lazy, more efficient, blindly followed a cultural change driven by technology, or just found the maximum audience with the minimum amount of time, it’s difficult to deny the massive shift in the way we communicate. In business, we need to communicate with people in whatever way gets the message across. While email and texting are useful, and maybe the way others ask us to communicate with them, there is something about face to face meetings that cannot be replicated by words alone. Think of it as being similar to reading a play compared to watching one on stage, or reading a recipe compared to tasting the dish. The value of face to face conversations transcends all levels of engagement whether internal or external.

We all know the value of face to face engagements. By making a connection with someone, we develop a relationship. We have something to talk about besides the business at hand. We are privy to body language, intonations with words, emphasis on important items and facial expressions. Passion for a project, product or service emanates from a conversation with much more power than through an email or a 280 character rant. We’re not telling you anything you didn’t already know. This is what the people at Snapchat have already figured out- our faces tell it all.

The challenge may be getting time in front of people, whether internal or external, when they either don’t have the time, won’t make the time, or don’t have a clear understanding of the value of meeting with you. In some areas, this may be a culture change in your work environment, or in the work environment of the person with whom you’d like to meet. You already know the value of getting in front of your target audience. How do you get others to understand it as well? Here are three ways that may help you get started on your quest.

First, find an ally. We all need a little help sometimes. That help can come in the form of a colleague who can get you in front of the person who needs to hear your message. Ideally, this person already knows the value of what you’re “selling” and knows that others will see it too, if you can share the information you have, in person. Emails are easy to ignore. Social media only works when people go to the social site AND follow you. A phone call only gets to one person, not an entire team or department. You need this person’s help and appreciate anything he or she can do to get you in front of the larger group. Which brings us to the next point.

Second, be humble. Don’t ask for more than you need. Remember, your audience doesn’t yet understand the value of your message because they haven’t heard it yet. They are doing you a favor by giving you face to face time when they normally wouldn’t. Take the time to think through their perspective; all your audience wants to know is: what’s in it for me? To that end, if you can deliver your message in 5-7 minutes, don’t ask for 30 even though you might get that anyway.

Third, keep it simple. Know your audience. These are busy people who are not yet aware of how much your product or service is going to help them, save them time, or save them money. Think of what you would want to know if you were that person. If the most important piece of information is that you can make purchases in 3 minutes without multiple levels of approvals, make that the message. Don’t go into details about the exceptions, the workings of the back office system, or the training details. Stick to the  30,000 ft view. Create a simple one-page leave behind (ONLY ONE PAGE) and leave time for questions. If there are comments and conversation that turns your 5-7 minute presentation into 30 minutes, that’s okay because the extended time is coming from your audience not a 50 slide powerpoint people stopped paying attention to after slide 5.

Change can happen. It takes many small steps, convincing others that a new way is worth considering, and patience. In a time of electronic everything, going old school with a face to face meeting can stand out more than the best email or the best website, and yield the best results.