Do We Need More than One Way to Connect?

Two articles crossed my desk recently. One was entitled “Meetings Deliver”, a white paper on the ways that face-to-face meetings of all kinds have a positive impact to drive sales and profitability. The other was an article on how virtual presentations saved one company “serious time and money”. Which one is correct? To be fair, they both are. Xerox uses online presentations for both training and lead generation. Due to tight travel budgets, employees and channel partners attend training classes online. Marketing presentations include product demonstrations and customer testimonials. Xerox controls the information required by viewer log-ins to maximize lead generation. This way they know which customers were interested in which topics. All well and good. However, Xerox still attends dozens of live events every year.

This boasting of the holy grail of virtual creates the impression that face-to-face is a big waste of time and money. It’s just not that easy. We’re part of the human race, and most of us need more interaction than via our computer screens. What’s important is to recognize the opportunity to mix and match to create a strategic solution. According to the MPI white paper, some of the business benefits of face-to-face include the opportunity to “seal the deal” and form long-term relationships, the ability to build trust, and improved productivity. In the local economy, meetings deliver direct and indirect employment for millions of people. One figure quoted states that a 10% increase in business travel would raise GDP by 1.5% – 2.9%.

One of the surveys determined that every dollar invested in business travel generates US$12.50 in incremental value. The average U.S. business would lose 17% of its profits if it cancelled all business travel, and it would take over three years to recover that loss. The report, by Oxford Economics, found that 75% of customers prefer or require face-to-face meetings, and that 40% of prospects become new customers after a face-to-face compared to only 16% who convert without a meeting. And, the executives surveyed said that 28% of their current business would be lost without it. Another survey of Harvard Business Review subscribers believe face-to-face as the “key to success for long-term relationships”. While 30% of the HBR respondents predicted a decline in face-to-face requiring travel, they didn’t seem happy about it. 60% said business relationships had suffered from travel cuts.

So, what’s the next move? Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need meetings to survive and thrive. The climate now calls for more accountability and value, so fewer frills and extras; smaller meetings and closer to home, to keep travel budgets down; and a strong demand for educational content.  The ability to use all the tools in our kit will allow the strategic discussions to bring maximum value of meeting spend. In fact, one briefing paper suggested that “It is likely that the complexity of our economic times calls for even more meetings now, not fewer. However, what is certain is that those meetings will require more careful design, alignment with strategy, and clear measures and supporting logistics.”

Don’t just take my word on it – to read the complete stories, go to to read B-to-B Magazine’s article on “How Xerox Handles Virtual Presentations”, and for the complete white paper from MPI, “Meetings Deliver”.

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