Offline networking: why face-to-face communication matters in a digital era.
Tech may break down communication barriers, but face-to-face meetings are an important part of humanising the digital field, says WebBox MD Will.
Before I begin, I want to be clear: I love tech. I love it so much that I’ve built — and grown — a thriving digital agency that embraces all that tech has to offer. I use tech to make both my work and personal life easier, and I (like many of you reading this) would be lost without it.
Technology has changed the way that we do pretty much everything. From how we work and how we communicate to how we spend our downtime and everything in between. But although a shift to an increasingly digital existence is enhancing huge aspects of our lives, there are still some massive challenges to overcome.
Although tech enhancements (such as email, Skype, FaceTime, instant messages and video conference calls) mean we can now communicate quicker and easier than ever before, from anywhere in the world, they don't quite cut it when it comes to forging working relationships.
As a digital agency owner, these are the kind of relationships that are especially important in a sector that’s often misrepresented as faceless, machine-led and data-driven. Our agency is very much human. So it’s my mission to make sure that our collaborators and clients know that.
Here are 4 reasons why face-to-face meetings matter so much in the digital field.
1. It lets people know they matter
One thing that lets us stand apart as an agency is a time we spend in person with the people we do business with. We wouldn’t be the thriving digital agency we are today without our UK-wide clients. So spending valuable time with them (whether through meetings, working lunches, events or workshops) lets them know how important they are to our business. The same goes for our collaborators, tech industry peers and local businesses. We make a conscious effort to attend the in-person events that will align our brand with the best people – and we don’t mind spending time doing it. Whether it’s through networking events, conferences or festivals – being in the mix shows others how much we value their expertise, offerings and insights.
2. It builds better working relationships
Interacting directly with clients, collaborators and industry peers doesn’t just expand our network but also allows us to build better relationships, too. Sure, Skype and other forms of video calling are innovative, but nothing beats sitting down at a table in person when it comes to getting your views across. From getting under the skin of our clients’ brands and really understanding their expectations to explain the solutions and gaining their trust — face-to-face meetings allow us to get a better feel for our clients so we can manage their projects most effectively and deliver the results that surpass their expectations.
3. It's an efficient way of gathering feedback
I know I’m not alone when I say that my team and I have spent countless hours trying to explain something complex, resolve an issue or gain feedback via phone or email — to no avail. Though these forms of communication have enhanced our working lives — and efficiency — in many areas, there are still some aspects of a project that are better suited to in-person communication. Information and feedback that can sometimes take hours, days, or even weeks to gather via phone or email can often be resolved in one face-to-face client meeting. People bounce off people, and being in a room with our clients lets us better explain projects, gage a client’s understanding, gather all the information we need to deliver the next stage of the job.
4. It gets the message across
How many times have you, a collaborator or a client been misinterpreted via email, text or phone? Though we try to keep any miscommunication to the minimum at WebBox, it sometimes happens. That’s life. And it’s also one of the biggest downfalls of communicating digitally. Not being able to see and interpret the other person’s reactions, body language and other social cues can lead to misinterpreting — or even a complete break down of — communication. Non-verbal cues just don’t come across in digital forms of communication. But face-to-face meetings allow both us and our clients or collaborators to explain our messages clearly and effectively so that they resonate with — and are understood by — the people in the room.
Yes, tech is enhancing our lives in so many ways, but it’s not — and shouldn’t be — the only tool that helps us communicate today. Face-to-face communication can have a huge impact on results, and it continues to play a key role at WebBox. Got a project to discuss? Drop us a line here to arrange an in-person meeting with myself and our digital experts.