Is the Face-To-Face Meeting Dead? I Hope Not

Guest Post by Aileen Katcher, APR, Fellow PRSA.

Photo by Henrique Félix

Photo by Henrique Félix

Back in the olden days, before Al Gore invented the Internet, before cell phones were glued to everyone’s thumbs, before every computer or tablet had Skype or Facetime – business people had to communicate face-to-face with colleagues, clients, reporters, referral sources etc.  

The art of face-to-face communications may be lost

As I watch my millennial son and his friends constantly texting and snapchatting, I am concerned that the art of face-to-face communications may be lost in today’s younger workforce. 

Recently I was struck by this Facebook post from a successful, bright, talented millennial business woman:    

“Want a good way to find out how someone (a colleague, prospective client, vendor) respects your time? When they ask for a face to face meeting you may add a practice to your business that includes a phone or Skype call initially. If they insist on a face to face meeting they may not quite understand the value of time. Over the phone meetings allow you to pre-qualify the new opportunity as well as have a more intentional and efficient conversation when you meet.”

It reminded me of lessons I learned from two of my early PR mentors. Jean Moore, my boss at my first hospital PR job in Alabama, taught me that you don’t really know someone until you break bread with themFood is a universal connector

My first PR agency boss, Hal Kennedy, taught me to return every phone call. He said you never know when it might be a potential client or lead to a potential client. And, if they want to meet, do it. Even sales people may end up being referral sources. Of course, Hal always met with them over martinis, but that’s another story.

Yes, it is important that business associates respect your time (try Dave's no agenda coffee next time) and not all meetings are productive. Knowing what the agenda is will indeed help you prepare.  

When I want to meet with someone, even if I request it via technology (email, social media or text) I include a brief mention of why (i.e. “want to catch up and tell you about the new direction my career has taken;” “can I introduce you to a former colleague who is interested in learning more about your industry?” “I read about your promotion and would love to buy you lunch to celebrate”)

We are forgetting the importance of face-to-face contact

While I agree it is helpful to get a sense for why someone wants your time in advance, I fear that in today’s fast-paced, techno-centric, 24/7 world, we are forgetting the importance of face-to-face contact, even if it’s just to “break bread.” Every meeting can be valuable if you make it so.

When is the last time you purposely reached out to someone for a face-to-face meeting?