The Power of Face-to-Face Engagement in Global Business

By Erin Wynn, Chief Customer Officer at Welocalize

In global business, the cost of physically attending a meeting is significantly higher than conducting a meeting using audio and video conferencing or email. We all know extensive business travel can be time consuming and frustrating, sacrificing time spent with family and loved ones. Although you save time and money using technology to communicate, the positive impact and rewards of face-to-face engagement with clients, employees and external stakeholders is priceless.

In this digital age, we have so many devices to enable communication, breaking down geographical borders and cutting through time-zones. With so many communication platforms, people can be over whelmed and constantly distracted. On a video or audio call, it’s difficult to be 100% focused when your email is constantly pinging and multiple instant messages are popping up.

This is where face-to-face really proves to be most important. It’s hard to build genuine relationships through devices. It is nearly impossible to engage in person for every interaction, but the only way to make a true connection and build a lasting business relationship is through face-to-face engagement. We need to see each other to be able to connect and engage. Professor Albert Mehrabian’s well-known communications model found that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone of voice and 7% is the actual words spoken. Some people’s communication skills don’t work as well over devices – whether writing emails or speaking over the phone. I know people who are amazing in face-to-face meetings, but put them on a phone and they come across uncomfortable and unnatural.

The benefit of face-to-face for all participants is the ability to be truly genuine. When you’re on email, or on the telephone, it’s hard to read body language and tone can be misinterpreted. With face-to-face expressions and body language, you can give time and thought to responses and most important, listen. There is no urgent need to fill the silence. Questions can be clarified without requiring hundreds of email exchanges. Challenges can be overcome in minutes. You can have spur of the moment brainstorming sessions. Relationships and friendships are formed. Knowledge transfer is so much easier when you are face-to-face.

At Welocalize, face-to-face is an important part of our culture and vital to delivering excellent customer service. The Welocalize culture is all about the people; connection and engagement. It’s a true differentiator. For any aspect of global business, you can go back and forth in email, exchange RFPs over the internet, but to connect and engage, you have to be able to develop a genuine connection. Until you get together in a room, or have a coffee or meal together, there is less of an opportunity for connection.

Many people find friends and partners over the internet and social media, but it’s not until they meet do they recognize the true potential and chemistry of the future. Successful global business is all about engagement and relationship building and that requires the commitment to meet in person, as well as using devices and digital communications.

It is unrealistic to expect everyone to be on a plane or train all the time. There aren’t enough hours in the day or dollars in the travel budget. What we must strive for is balance and in addition to face-to-face engagement, take the opportunity to create face-to-face interaction using technology. Whenever possible, switch on video to take part in a conference call – make a personal connection.

Everyone is a leader and leading by engagement is the solid path to successful global business. Ask yourself: who will I engage with today? Clients? Colleagues? Family? Make it count and if possible, shut down your email and devices and be present – meet face-to-face.

Erin Wynn is Chief Customer Officer at Welocalize.