F2f meetings: unnecessary burden or dying art?

Hannah Patel PR

By in Blog
On July 5, 2019

f2f meetings

As the UK director of a b2b tech PR agency, it’s fair to say that if I’m not talking about an enterprise collaboration tool, I’m using one.

I write this as Slack heads toward an IPO; on its mission to “replace the e-mail” according to The Telegraph. I’ve absorbed multi-platform communication as much as the next person. Since we introduced team instant messaging into our workflow, there have been undeniable benefits: not least an uncluttered inbox. We’ve long since said goodbye to snail mail, but are we ready to give up the f2f meetings?

This is my generation, baby

The variety and volume of f2f meetings with clients and colleagues is one of the main reasons I opted to build a career in a consultancy environment. Sitting in a room with someone and building a rapport, or dealing with someone or something challenging face-to-face is the thing I love most about my job. It’s something I take pride in. And (perhaps ashamedly) it’s something I’ve spent more time trying to work on than anything else over the last 10+ years.

However, there’s now an entire generation of adults who only really communicate with the outside world (and often with colleagues in the same office) electronically.

Few people actually use the phone for anything other than text-based communication – and it seems that we are all becoming more passive – hitting send and waiting for something to happen.

Now this isn’t intended to have a “back in my day” tone – luckily for me I don’t think I’m actually old enough to do that yet (despite what some of my more youthful colleagues may say) – but in the modern world of work where efficiency is everything, it seems that there’s a lack of appreciation for human contact.

After all, why would we meet face to face when we can get things done far quicker over the phone or over a video call? And why take someone out for lunch when you can hold a meeting virtually and save on the expense?

The power lunch: gone but not forgotten

The proliferation of collaboration tools has taken its first casualty: The Power Lunch. Coined by Esquire Magazine in 1979, the term sprung up to describe the plethora of business deals taking place over Caesar salads in the Four Seasons in New York, which dominated the worlds of traders, movie execs and ad professionals for over four decades.

While I’m not advocating for a return to the boozy business lunch, the transition to digital meetings hasn’t been clear-cut. In-person meetings are under scrutiny to be more productive than a digital transaction, meaning as soon as you cross the threshold of a meeting room, or sit down at a table, you often feel you need to cover every point necessary before even being offered a glass of water.

Sitting in a meeting while everyone has their laptop in front of them to “take notes” or physically losing half the room 30 minutes in as they have a “hard stop” is an almost daily occurrence. And that’s not, I hope, because I am extraordinarily dull. It seems to be due to the fact that people have forgotten that the whole purpose of an in-person meeting is to make a human connection. In holding real-world communication up to clinical standards, we could be in danger of losing the art of conversation – as well as its business benefits.

As much as I love a PowerPoint over a Pret, I can’t help but feel that meeting etiquette is in freefall – and it’s time we looked closely at how to buck this trend.

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“How about 1pm?” – said no French person, ever

The perception that f2f meetings are old fashioned and always a waste of time is untrue. It’s the same as the myth that by introducing Slack or Flock, or another business messaging tool, email will die. Email still has a place in 2019, in the same way that f2f meetings do.

This is not a hark back to the olden days, but it should serve as a reminder to us all (me included) about what a face-to-face meeting should be. Not just that it is the right format, but that it is hosted in the right way to put everyone at ease. Here are some things to think about ahead of an in-person meeting to ensure you make the most of the time you’re going to spend in the room:

If this all sounds blindingly obvious to you, then you know you’re already getting it right. But if I had a pound for every time I had seen something on this list missed or not considered I would not be writing this, I’d be sitting on a beach in Barbados. So slow down, think, and really evaluate whether you’re helping people get the most out of spending time with you in-person.

It’s only with self-reflection and discussion with colleagues and clients that we will be able to get the true benefits of meetings. Our relationships and our work will be richer as a result.

To find out more about our PR and marketing services, drop us a line at hello@rlyl.com or visit our contact page.

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