Best Practices

Network Kansas: When E-mail Isn't Enough

Published Sep 04, 2014

by: Anne Dewvall

Men-talking-by-Flickr-user-Andrew-Creative-CommonsIn today’s world, it’s important to be fluent in virtual communication. From e-mail to instant messages, social media to webinars, there are dozens of ways to stay in touch with coworkers and clients across the globe. Face-to-face interactions are still important in business.

Think of the deals signed over drinks or agreements reached during a round of golf. Most interviews end with an in-person event, even if the employee will be based outside the office. Humans absorb a wealth of information from an in-person interaction via body language, vocal inflection, and eye contact. But there are times when a face-to-face interaction isn’t just a bonus; it’s necessary.

Erik Pedersen directs a statewide entrepreneurship program in Kansas (the E-Community Partnership) and has found that there are times when in-person interactions saved a situation that was heading south quickly.

When a community ran into significant issues dealing with loan funds, “I would travel to their meeting to meet it head on,” explained Pedersen. “We’d first address the matter at hand, but then we’d spend the rest of our time talking through the issues and whether the policy in place was truly the best.”

These face-to-face meetings didn’t just solve problems; they built trust.

“A large part of how the [program] looks is due to those early face-to-face meetings. Had we not developed a trusting relationship, that would not have been possible, and I guarantee it wouldn't have been possible over email.”

In another case, Pedersen related how he made an effort to visit a community two hours away and off the beaten track. “I’d stop and have coffee or lunch."

When an issue involving loan repayments arose, Pedersen drove to meet the group. “As with any issue that is significant at all, I believe in handling it face-to-face.”

Although the group didn’t like the way the situation was resolved, the meeting still resulted in a positive outcome.

“I am convinced that because we were all in the same room together, we not only reached a mutual understanding, but developed a better professional relationship as well.”

While e-mail is an effective means of quick communication, face-to-face meetings still present a wealth of benefits for businesses. Face-to-face communication facilitates relationship building, creates trust, and provides brainstorming opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, good face-to-face relationships will translate to better virtual communication. No need for emoticons when you can imagine the sender’s tone of voice thanks to your many great conversations.

Photo credit: Flickr user Andrew (Creative Commons)

Content contributed by Anne Dewvall, Network Kansas. Network Kansas is a proud affiliate of U.S. SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs