At Catalyst Ranch, Chicago’s most creative meeting venue, we certainly believe in the value of face to face meetings.  Our meeting space is, of course, designed to bring people together and foster communication and innovation.  We practice what we preach!  Our Ranch Hands have internal meetings on a weekly basis, and we often have one on one “check-ins” to keep everyone on the same page.  Sitting down in the same room and having a live conversation that is far more effective than emailing or even talking on the phone.  Face to face communication is better since non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, hand gestures, and tone provide more clues to listeners than the words themselves.   Meeting in person also builds transparency and trust.  When employees have a personal connection, there is a greater motivation to work together because there is accountability and mutual respect.

The value of face to face interactions was clearly illustrated this week as we hosted a two-day meeting for over sixty attendees from six different cities.  The entire group gathered in the Polka Room for presentations and meals together.  Then, attendees broke out into smaller groups in Polka’s built-in breakout areas and utilized the Tango and Cha Cha rooms as well.  As everyone arrived the first morning, the positive energy intensified as attendees, many of whom work together but had not seen each other in a year, met in person again.  Seeing all of these professionals shake hands and even exchange hugs set the tone for teamwork in a way that a round of introductions over a conference call simply could not.  Building goodwill and enthusiasm among employees is just one of the substantial, long-term benefits of an in person meeting.

Increased Revenue and Profits

A study on business travel by the global research firm, Oxford Economics, provides clear evidence that business travel leads to an increase in both corporate revenue and profits.  In fact the study found that every $1.00 invested in business travel results in $12.50 in added revenues and $3.80 in new profits.  Meeting with current and prospective customers produced the highest ROI, but the study reveals that internal meetings and training sessions also positively impact the bottom line.

 

1 effectiveness of virtual vs. in-person meetings

 

Cost of “Saving” Money by Cutting Meetings

Companies may look to cut costs by reducing business travel, but the Oxford Economics study indicates that if a company eliminated all of its business travel, corporate profits would drop 17% in the first year.

In addition to losing customers and revenue, cutting meetings can also lead to a decline in employee productivity, satisfaction, and morale.

“Tough times are a great time to renew trust. When customers and employees see the leadership team standing front and center and delivering the message, it demonstrates that management cares about them and considers them essential to weathering the storm. Cancelling such meetings, except when there are no other alternatives, sends the message that employees and even vendors and customers are expendable.”

– John Baldoni, author and publisher on Harvard Business Publishing’s Leadership blog Leadership Matters

Technology Integration

To Skype or nor to Skype?  Video conferencing is a great option when a team member cannot attend or as an alternative in the event inclement weather impedes travel.  However, “Instead of looking at video conferencing as an alternative to offsite meetings, many companies are now combining the two” says Joe Mullich, author of “The New Face of Face-to-Face Meetings: Efficiencies, Technology, and Better Metrics Bring Greater ROI.”  Additionally, according to the Oxford study, “Experts say companies must strategically determine how to integrate face-to-face meetings and new technology based on specific objectives.”   So, you don’t need to choose, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Set Yourself Up for Success

Face to face interaction is broadly considered to be the best way to achieve company goals.  Dr. Richard D. Arvey, a psychologist and professor with the National University of Singapore, says that “group processes and outcomes that require coordination, consensus, timing and persuasion of others were better accomplished up close and personal.”

Some of the key areas most impacted by traveling to an internal meeting are Idea Sharing, Better Communication, Staff Morale, and Performance.

1 impact chart 1Furthermore, while Dr. Arvey was preparing a report for Hilton Hotels called “Why Face-to-Face Business Meetings Matter,” he found research that indicated:

  • 77% of people believe that offsite meetings are a necessity not a luxury
  • 85% believe face-to-face meetings are more likely to result in breakthrough thinking
  • 82% believe that meetings bring out the best in people.

Sounds like a good investment!  What do YOU think is the top benefit of traveling to an offsite meeting with you company?