Sometimes Face-To-Face meetings aren’t always possible. But understanding their importance and alternatives to emulating face-to-face meetings can go a long way to building great long term relationships.
In 2007, I began working with a new company and a small virtual team. One team member happened to be in the same city as me. We periodically met for breakfast with another team from the same company. During these occasional face-to-face contacts, I found it very easy to discuss problems my team member and I were working on. After these meetings, we might not see each other for one to three weeks, but our non face-to-face communication was simple and natural. With the other team members who I had not met personally, communication was a little more formal and guarded.
As this example shows, a first meeting tends to be the most important in building a long-term relationship. Once you’ve seen someone or at least heard their voice, subsequent e-mails will have a human personality attached to them. You’re no longer sending messages off to a faceless recipient. This can have an impact on how those messages are worded and also benefit the continued growth of a relationship.
Three Ways To Build Trust For Long Term Relationships
Understanding how trust is formed through different forms of communication can play an important role in building relationships. As an entrepreneur, establishing a rapport with your customers and colleagues is essential to your success. The more people in your network who have an interest in your success, the more chances you have of achieving your goals.
This article looks at three common mediums of engagement that can be used to build trust, which is a cornerstone of establishing long-term relationships. Among them, face-to-face interaction is the most effective. The second one is the online contact. And the third, the good, old-fashioned phone call, fits somewhere in between.
Chron.com (http://smallbusiness.chron.com/face-to-face-communication-business-2832.html) found in a 2009 Forbes Insights survey of more than 750 business professionals, that the majority of executives favored personal interactions.
“Eight out of 10 respondents said they preferred face-to-face meetings over technology-enabled meetings such as videoconferencing. Face-to-face meetings ‘build stronger, more meaningful business relationships.’”
Meeting someone in person has several immediate advantages that online or phone meetings do not have. The ability to hear the voice and see the face and body language creates a memorable visual. Video cameras too can capture voice, facial expressions, as well as body language. However, the camera records just one perspective, which is usually a straight-on take. But when you are face-to-face with someone, you see various angles that a camera does not convey. You also see the person in more mobile situations (standing up, walking, sitting, etc.), you hear the voice from different locations as both of you move or adjust your positions. By comparison, the camera’s visual and audible features may seem flat.
These characteristics are the main reason why face-to-face meetings are better than online and phone conversations, and can help build trust faster. S. Park and Qiping Zhang of Long Island University ran a workshop titled “Building Trust in Online Environments,” in which they state, “CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) may delay trust in the absence of body language, facial expressions, and subtle voice inflections.”
Because of the previously mentioned cues that are given off, you are able to detect the mood of a conversation much better. This is an excerpt from a paper written by “http://boardsource.org” boardsource.org titled “Virtual Meeting Attendance: Not Present, But Still Here:” “Understanding the caveats of virtual attendance allows the meeting organizers and participants to avoid major challenges — or at least be better prepared for them. The chair often bears the biggest brunt of the challenges. In “physical” meetings, a skillful chair studies board members’ body language and facial expressions and is able to react immediately to the mood of the room. Leading a complex discussion and debate without being in the same room with the participants can be difficult.” Although face-to-face contacts provide the best environment for meetings, especially at the beginning of a relationship, online interactions can also be fruitful. Seeing your interlocutor on Skype or another video application and being able to associate a voice with a face can create trust as well, although it could take longer and require more effort than personal exchanges.
However, in cases when a face-to-face meeting is not feasible – for instance, if the people are not in geographical proximity – online contacts are a good option.
Chuck Martin, makes additional good points for using online contacts in Chief Information Officer magazine.
“Email and instant messenger communication can accelerate the discussion for large groups in instances where members can’t interrupt their work schedules to meet,” he notes. “Email is also a better way to schedule and confirm meetings because everyone will have reliable, written correspondence to refer back to if need be.”
Of course, under certain circumstances, such as geography or poor Internet connection, when neither personal nor online video meetings are possible, you may have to rely on phone conversations instead. Even though you can’t see the other person, you are still able to hear each other’s voices and have an element of a personality, which you can attach to future communications, making the interactions more personal.
To sum up, e-mails, text messages, chats and other forms of non- audio/video conversation can be great for passing information back and forth. Face-to-face contacts, however, are much more powerful, direct and effective in forming a long-term relationship based on trust, familiarity and mutual respect.