055Susan RoAne explains why in-person connections matter just as much as ever.

Sometimes you get a few chapters into a business book and wonder why you are still bothering to turn the pages. Other times you feed voraciously on every word, paragraph, and chapter. Not only has the writer engaged you with stories and examples, but you know this person is a thought leader. These books are special. And rare.

My original copy of How to Work a Room has sticky notes all over it. I devoured it. And that was before I’d ever met Susan RoAne. She was one of the first people to write about networking—a skill all salespeople need but many never manage to master. Since then, she has written six more books. (I don’t know how she does it.)

Susan and I have become good friends over the years, and I continue to learn from her. I invited Susan to share her wisdom in today’s guest post. Here’s what she has to say about the importance of face-to-face meetings in a tech-driven world:

‘”Formal face-to-face meetings will disappear’ has been the hue and cry of alleged futurists. The reality is that they were wrong! Meeting spaces are proliferating; convention centers are expanding; hotels are experiencing sold-out nights because of meetings and conferences. Corporate giants are still having in-person meetings, in spite of the costs, because nothing replaces the creativity and innovation that emerges from in-person brainstorming.

Business Travelers Go the Extra Mile to Connect Face to Face

The number of million-mile frequent business travelers has increased. Sales executives know the importance of going the distance to meet clients—and that a simple handshake can set the tone for a business relationship.

When my clients hire me to speak for their meetings and conferences, they bring people from across the country and around the globe to meet in person. These execs want to build team spirit and foster cross-platform and cross-division communication. They want their people to meet, connect, and engage with one another. Why? Ultimately it’s good for both bottom- and top-line growth.

Technology offers great ways to stay in contact and to share facts, figures, and data … after people have met. Skype, FaceTime, and Web-based conferences even offer a visual presence that’s beneficial for connecting with clients or team members. But it’s not the same as being in the same room.

Some salespeople even use technology to avoid human interaction, which may save time. But they also lose opportunities to build rapport, trust, and real connections. That’s why forward-thinking industry leaders are leading us back to in-person interactions.

The Economist Intelligence Group spearheaded research and compiled some solutions to help us prepare for what I call retro-communication. Here are a few highlights:

A University Answers the “It’s Not Facebook” Call

To encourage students to connect in real life, not just online, New York University offered an orientation seminar for incoming freshmen called ‘Facebook in the Flesh.’ As assistant dean David Schacter explained to The New Yorker, ‘It’s face to face . . . it’s social and it happens in the same space.’

A Demand for People Who Can Talk to Other People—Face to Face

Because companies are recognizing that creating face-to-face rapport and connection pays off, they’re getting results that build their bottom lines. The next wave for recruiting, hiring, and promoting will be the people who have face-to-face skills, as well as the required professional and technical experience.

Happiness Relates to In-Person Contact

Major university research across the country indicates that relationships and social interactions keep us healthy and mentally alert, and contribute to our longevity. Who would argue with that?! There’s also a powerful, personal benefit from mastering face-to-face. According to Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor and author of Stumbling on Happiness, ‘Relationships with friends and family are the #1 factor that determines our happiness.’

Are You a Conversation Creator or Conversation Avoider?

Too many of us avoid conversation with others we meet in every facet of our daily lives. Whether we’re standing in line at the supermarket, waiting for the subway, or at professional meetings and conferences, we often don’t start impromptu conversations. We’re losing out because we don’t reach out. It may be that we fear face-to-face rejection. But the reward for taking that risk could be new information, a new contact, or a new friend. Isn’t that worth it, especially for salespeople?”

(The original version of this article, entitled “FACE To FACE: Cannot Be Replaced,” appeared on LinkedIn Publisher.)

susan roaneAbout the Author

Susan RoAne is a sought-after speaker and bestselling author of seven books, including the classic How to Work a Room—available in print, as an ebook, and as an audio book from MacMillan. Learn more at www.SusanRoAne.com, or follow Susan on LinkedIn.