Social media and technology have made it easier than ever to connect with others. It’s great to know that with tools like Skype and others, you can connect instantly and in real time with a colleague or family member across town, across the country, or across the globe. That said, nothing beats (or ever will beat) face-to-face, in-person contact.
I’m currently attending the annual convention of my industry organization, the National Speakers Association (NSA). The sessions-both the general sessions as well as the breakouts-have been outstanding. But for me, the greatest value at this convention (as with all previous NSA conventions that I’ve attended) has come from the impromptu conversations in the hallway, the bar, the restaurant-even (in one case) in the restroom.
If you’ve ever attended a convention for your industry, I’m sure you’ve had the same experience (right?). You’re walking down the hall, you see a colleague approaching, and you remember that last year she was facing the same challenge you happen to be facing right now. So you stop and say, “Hey, Shelly, how did you finally resolve that situation you were in?” You have a quick, spontaneous conversation, and the conference has now paid for itself.
When the Great Recession hit, many organizations stopped having an annual meeting. They figured, “Hey, we can do virtual events, create a LinkedIn group, maybe have a much smaller meeting with only senior staff.” Look, all those things are great. They’re important tools for business communication. But within a year or two, these same organizations realized the importance of putting people in the same room. Because the best technology for business communication ever is live, in person, face-to-face human interaction.
This doesn’t just apply to large conferences and conventions. In a study on team communication published by Harvard Business Review in April 2012, the most valuable form of communication was face-to-face. (Second was phone or videoconference, although these became less effective as more people participate.)
What does all this mean for you and your teams? It means that if you want to produce better results, you need to find ways to get your team members together, in the same room, talking face-to-face. If your team works in the same building, encourage them to get out of their chairs and walk to each other’s spaces rather than making a quick call or sending an email to someone who’s only a few feet, or a floor or two, away. If your team is more spread out, make sure they have a chance, on at least an annual basis, to get together face-to-face.
After all, that next hallway conversation could be the one that propels your team, and your organization, into the stratosphere!