What’s the value of a face to face meeting? Are these meetings an investment or an expense? These thoughts occurred to me as I sat for hours on a plane to go visit with a number of HP’s PPM, ITFM and Executive Scorecard customers in Berlin over the past week. We hold these meetings from time to time in all regions of the world and they have always been worthwhile to me. It’s hard to find a setting that better allows customers and employees alike to sit down and share their challenges and successes and to learn from each others’ experiences.
Research appears to support the value of these face to face meetings. I recently read a survey, performed by the Harvard Business Review, about the value of face-to-face meetings (go here for summary of the survey). According to the survey, executives firmly believe face-to-face meetings are very important in negotiations, to further strengthen relationships, to overcome cultural barriers and so forth. I’m probably preaching to the choir here.
As I’d expect, this set of meetings in Berlin was very fruitful. I was able to hear stories of success from a couple of banks in Turkey, one of the world’s largest airlines, a high-tech manufacturer and a huge mining conglomerate among others. Their stories of success all had similar themes. Customers who had struggled to answer tough questions about investment priorities, project success and benefits realization at one point, were now having success after using HP’s software products. Successes included improved efficiency within IT projects to better prioritization of products that would be offered for sale in the market.
As I looked around the room each day, however, and talked with these customers during our breaks, I realized that although beneficial, the presentations were not the key reasons these customers attended the sessions. Instead, it was for the people they met. The conversations they had that helped each to become more effective at their jobs and to give them a route to potentially find answers to some of their most perplexing problems. It was, in other words, the face-to-face interactions that defined the moment.
A worthwhile investment I think.