Research paper reveals the 'coffee break chat' as one of the keys to business success.
It might not be what is discussed during a meeting but the informal discussions that take place during the coffee and lunch breaks, or in the taxi on the way to the airport after a business gathering is over, that make face-to face meetings a more effective form of business communication than other increasingly popular ‘virtual alternatives'.
This fact, highlighting the importance of sideline conversations enabled by face-to-face meetings, was one of many findings in a new academic paper entitled ‘Why Face-to-Face Business Meetings Matter' published today by Dr Richard Arvey PhD, Head of the Department of Management and Organisation at National University of Singapore.
Commissioned by Hilton Hotels Corporation (Hilton) in Asia, the paper addresses the business and psychological values derived from face-to-face meetings. In his paper, Dr Arvey concludes that meetings definitely matter to the modern business and whilst companies are increasingly relying on ‘computer-mediated' channels such as email or the internet, they should be careful to ensure that they are still selecting the most appropriate medium for their business discussions.
Speaking about his research Dr Arvey said, "Current trends suggest that face-to-face meetings are increasingly being substituted by virtual alternatives, but research shows that face-to-face meetings provide many positive effects compared to computer mediated alternatives. It is my belief that eliminating face-to-face meetings would be a mistake for businesses because of the variety of positive psychological as well as general business outcomes that meetings can offer corporations."
He also said that conference calls or emails are a good option when companies want to convey information but don't really need a decision or response from the participants, or perhaps have a need to respond to an issue quickly. Meanwhile, face-to-face meetings are considered more effective when wide consensus and persuasion is required, or when there is a range of complex tasks or decisions on the agenda.
Dr Arvey's paper goes on to provide further psychological reasons as to why meetings, through human contact enable transparency and trust, establish strong social and important exchange relationships and assist the ability for participants to evaluate and judge.
Hilton commissioned the research to explore current business perceptions about the importance of meetings. The hotel chain wanted to determine whether short term cost cuts made by stopping meetings were worth the potentially detrimental longer term effects to business.
Dr Arvey also said there was a need to take a different approach to running successful meetings in countries across Asia Pacific. While Singaporeans prefer to achieve closure and clear procedures through meeting, participants in China tend to place a higher value on traditions. Meanwhile, Australians respond better to meetings that emphasize individual responsibility.
Andrew Flack, Vice President Sales & Marketing, Hilton Hotels Asia Pacific said of the Hilton commissioned research, "Working with a respected academic such as Dr Arvey has provided us with fresh insights in to the evolving needs of our meetings customers. What we learnt not only supports our own belief that meetings still matter, but also brings further relevance to our "Meetings for Free" promotion which is designed to help reduce costs and keep business people meeting".
Meetings For Free
‘Why face to face meetings matter' forms part of a comprehensive programme of meetings activity in support of Hilton's ongoing promotion ‘meetings for free'. Anyone making a bedroom booking before 30th June for any date in 2009 will be eligible to receive a complimentary day meetings package including meeting room facilities, refreshments and lunch. The offer extends across all Hilton Family hotel brands in Asia Pacific: Hilton, Conrad and Doubletree by Hilton.
Meetings for Free applies to any conference, training or sales event held at any one of 47 Hilton Family hotels across 14 Asia Pacific countries for meetings from as few as 2 to as many as 100 residential delegates. The promotion is open for bookings made during a limited period between 15th April and 30th June 2009, for events taking place throughout the year until 31st December 2009.
Picture: ‘Bringing the truth about meetings out in the open' – high res version of this Bondi beach meeting available on request