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When Your Personal Attention Is Needed

We are fortunate to live in age where there are so many ways to stay connected in our business and personal lives. It’s amazing to think that Facebook, a tool that has been around fewer than five years, last month reached 400 million active users and became the most visited Web site in the U.S.

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But recently, I was reminded of just how instrumental face-to-face meetings can be in achieving business goals. Last week, more than 800 individuals from my organization gathered in Des Moines for our annual leadership meeting. The volume of advice shared, ideas generated and relationships solidified made me realize that the value created by this event would be extremely tough to duplicate by any virtual means.

 

Even though many of us are faced with tighter budgets and new economic realities, it’s a good idea to think about the times in your business cycles when meeting in person will pay great dividends. In a global survey of Harvard Business Review subscribers, 95 percent of respondents cited face-to-face meetings as a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships. More than half of the respondents mentioned the following reasons to have in-person meetings:

·  Meeting new clients to sell business

·  Contract negotiations

·  Understanding/listening to important customers

·  Identifying new growth opportunities

·  Building relationships/managing geographically dispersed teams

 

According to a 2009 Forbes Insights Survey, business executives, while relying more heavily on remote meetings than compared to a year prior (mainly for budgetary reasons), believe long-distance meetings frequently suffer from:

·     Reduced attention spans

·     Inability to inspire or build morale

·     Challenges for some participants to gain recognition

·     Difficulty to build trust

 

Of course, in our personal lives it’s just as important to make the effort to “be there” to grow our bonds with friends and loved ones. Relatively new communication tools such as Skype, which now has more than 20 million people using its service at peak times, have certainly filled a need for affordable and more engaging communication. However, even video conferencing can fall short when it comes to conveying emotion or allowing participants to act naturally.

 

I can’t help but think about one of my senior staff members who recently located from the Quad-Cities to Des Moines six months before her family could join her. Phone calls, e-mail, Skype and other technologies helped her stay connected with her family during the workweek, but now that they are all together again she let me know that tech-enabled communication pales in comparison to the real thing. Sharing dinner together, tucking kids into bed and generally being together are tough to re-create digitally.

 

The types of moments where we should make the effort to be together come in many forms and vary for us all. 

Think about where in your business and personal lives there might be a need to boost the amount of personal presence. Our time is precious these days, so consider spending it by cultivating those relationships that mean the most.

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Comments

Thanks Bill. Great post on the importance of nurturing relationships in the real world. IowaBiz blogger Jeff Garrison touched on a similar topic this week in his post on "Brand Fading." Check it out at http://www.jcgarrison.com/2010/04/brand-fading.html.

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