Long Live Interpersonal Communication

How face-to-face meetings still reign supreme in business

Photo: Joshua Ness

After leaving my job working as a writer for a public relations firm, I have made the scary and exciting choice of working for myself full time as a writer and editor. In these first few months, I have gone through many of the same experiences of other new business owners: balancing spending money to grow my business with working and cultivating new business; choosing the right voice and design aesthetic for my website and social media; sending cold emails to people who I think could use my writing services and getting used to rejection.

There is one thing that I have learned that has been a surprise to me, however — how in person, face-to-face relationship building still is the best pathway to growing a businesses, despite all these new fangled web-based tools and platforms we have at our fingertips. Maybe this is and has been obvious to everyone else, but as someone who is new to managing a business, the idea that interpersonal connection and relationships still run the business world has been revelatory.

Prior to working for myself, I imagined that companies almost exclusively used digital marketing, advertising, social media, email and public relations to get new business. Obviously, I haven’t been living under a rock, so I do recognize that meetings and drinks and coffees to discuss business still occur and have value and did not cease when the Internet was born. I did not realize, though, just how important one on one meetings still are in business.

Though I am certainly not rolling in the dough, I have already gotten new customers through in person meetings, friend of a friend referrals and in person networking meetings that value relationship building over technology. This should be no surprise to me or anyone else, I suppose. We humans love to talk and interact.

At the end of the day, social media, email and web-based communication just can’t replace the bond, memories and intimacy associated with sitting over a cup of coffee to talk business or anything else.

Research from several sources confirms this preference for human interaction. Mattersight Corporation found that in a study of 1,000 people that most prefer in person communication to digital communication, with phone communication ranked as the second preference, both beating out web-based communications. The subjects in the Mattersight study were Millennialls, which is a big deal. It shows that even the most technologically-raised generation sees the value in talking face to face.

Our ability as humans to talk and connect with one another instead of tapping on a cell phone or laptop is notably correlated with our mental and physical good health, too. In her September 2017 New York Times article on how humans benefit from social interaction, Jane E. Brody points out that in one of several studies she examines, those with strong social connections are likely to outlive even those with healthier lifestyles but who lack strong relationships in their lives.

Whether it is biology, an unconscious desire to connect for the benefit of better mental health or the pleasure taken in the coffee that often accompanies a business meeting, in person networking and communication still reign supreme. Perhaps that is only surprising to this business newbie and everyone else has been in the know all along. Regardless, I am glad to learn that interpersonal communication still is so important to how we connect, learn and grow as businesses and people.

According to Entrepreneur, an in person meeting is 34 times more effective than an email. So perhaps you should rethink that lengthy email that has been sitting in your drafts folder and schedule a meeting at your local coffee house instead. You will be glad you did.

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