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Are Face-to-Face Meetings Valuable?

Here in the 21st Century, e-mail, IM, and teleconferencing have almost completely replaced many of the meetings I used to routinely conduct. In fact, there are weeks in which I can go days without ever seeing another human being.

But is this dehumanizing? And is it bad for business? Yes, the Harvard Business Review thinks it is.

Web Worker Daily recently considered the question of face-to-face versus remote meetings, and reminded me how important it is to keep real human contact in the business relationship. Last year, for example, the Harvard Business Review conducted a global study that included over 2000 businesses. Over 95% of the respondents judged in-person meetings to be critical to building long-term business relationships.

Indeed, face-to-face meetings were seen as effective for:

  • Negotiating contracts
  • Interviewing senior staff for key positions
  • Understanding and listening to important customers
All that makes sense. I've found that while conversations can drag on for days in e-mail, I can frequently solve a complex problem in just a few minutes by conducting a face-to-face meeting. But on the other hand, I increasingly deal with people who don't want to nail down the details -- the stickiest bits -- in person. They'll hand wave and say "we'll finalize the details in e-mail."

What has your experience been balancing technology and in-person meetings? Share your opinion and anecdotes in the comments.

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