These days, we're more likely to flick a text than pick up the phone to call someone. We interact more with our friends on Facebook than in "real life". The colleagues we're collaborating with may reside across the ocean – and we may not even know what they look like or hear the sound of their voice.
In short, we live in an increasingly digital, virtual world. And it's not necessarily a bad thing. Technology has broken down barriers, connected the globe like never before and opened up fascinating new avenues for international business, personal networks and civic discourse.
However, as virtual channels become habits, it's easy to lose sight of the value a good old-fashioned face-to-face encounter can have. And when we do that, we miss out on a core channel that has a unique, irreplaceable role to play amidst all of the other, higher-tech forms of engagement.
The power of a personal encounter
Anyone who regularly participates in trade shows and exhibitions can attest to the value of interacting with vendors, peers and clients first hand. It's one of the aspects that sets these marketing events apart from other advertising and branding strategies. Why does an in-person conversation or demonstration carry so much weight?
"Even videoconferencing does not capture all of the dynamics of group members."
In a white paper produced by The Hilton Family, Professor Richard Arvey from the National University of Singapore Business School explored the psychological and practical advantages of in-person meetings over other forms of communication.
"Face-to-face meetings allow members to engage in and observe verbal and nonverbal behavioural styles not captured in most computer mediated communication devices," he explained.
"There are nuances associated with hand gestures, voice quality and volume, facial expressions, and so forth that are simply not captured in email discussion, chat rooms, and the like. Even videoconferencing does not capture all of the dynamics of group members."
Trust, understanding and common ground
Additionally, being present with another individual plays an enormous role in forming human connections and building relationships, according to Mina Chang, CEO of Linking the World.
She recently tweeted about an article she wrote for Forbes magazine. In the piece, she analysed the unique capacity of face-to-face encounters based on her work around the globe.
— Mina Chang (@MinaChang) March 1, 2015
In particular, Ms Chang observed that personal encounters build "trust, understanding and a real sense of a shared mission". For businesses and organisations, fostering these qualities with an audience, colleagues, partners and customers can make all the difference in generating sales, collaborating constructively and networking productively.
Face-to-face meetings for business success
Finally, as Mr Arvey and Ms Chang both noted, communicating via technology can be less efficient in some situations than sitting down with someone and having a discussion. Email chains that take days to resolved, unanswered phone calls and poor connections are just a few of the road blocks that can derail progress.
As this parody of a conference call produced by comedic duo Tripp and Tyler perfectly sums up, virtual communication is prone to distraction, interruption and confusion.
In-person interactions not only allow everyone to talk in "real time" while keeping a group on the same page, they usually keep people more engaged and attentive – since it's immediately noticeable if they're distracted.
In a piece published by Cornell University, marketing experts Christine Duffy and Mary Beth McEuen suggested that in-person meetings are particularly valuable in business situations where you want to "capture attention", launch something new, foster collaboration and positivity, and build relationships and networks. Furthermore, research by Oxford Economics USA showed a $12.50 boost in revenue for every dollar invested in business travel, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Even clients I've worked with remotely often book a whole lot more work once we've shared a handshake, some smiles and maybe a meal," marketing consultant Shel Horowitz told the news source.
Technology certainly has its role to play in modern business, marketing and collaboration. Mobile tools and interactive displays can even enhance in-person events like road shows, conference booth presentations and exhibitions. But there are some situations in which a face-to-face encounter just makes sense – and will fuel business success.