Over the course of my career, I've closed big business development deals as a chief revenue officer. I've learned many lessons about making connections, building relationships and closing deals. That process is an art, and a science, and it takes discernment to know when to invest in an in-person meeting or when to communicate remotely.
Business travel carries enormous expenses. Before buying plane tickets and booking hotel rooms, leaders need to carefully consider the costs and benefits. In some cases, a trip across the country could result in a big client -- or it could be a waste of time and money and a huge headache. It's hard to know when to go and when to stay.
Travel every time, and you could end up costing your company thousands of dollars and a lot of your time (which is money). Refuse to meet face to face, however, and you could lose deals with important clients -- or the respect of your team. This dynamic also applies to other types of meetings, not just sales.
Here are seven types of meetings, and advice from experts on whether you should visit the other party in person or communicate remotely.
Technology has completely changed recruiting over the past few years. Online networks and digital tools have made it possible to attract talent from every corner of the world, but the expense of meeting every candidate in person isn't viable for most companies.
Utilizing video conferencing not only saves time and money, but it can also provide a better experience compared to in-person interviews. "Video recordings provide a more accurate account than just note-taking or an audio-only recording," says Jamie Davidson, marketing communications manager at Vast Conference, a go-to conferencing solution for TheStreet and CircleUp. "Moreover, the video can be shared internally with other human resources managers and relevant executives who weigh in on the hiring decision."
While many companies have yet to fully get behind using video in the hiring process, embracing the trend can be highly beneficial.
2. Sales Meetings
Defining a single rule for sales meetings can be challenging, given the different scenarios that take shape across a business development cycle. In general, it's best to follow your instincts. When that doesn't work, here are a few other things you can consider.
My experience has shown that it's better to err on the side of meeting in person. This is especially important for a first meeting, in the middle of the cycle or when you're closing or negotiating the deal.
In the beginning phase, you need to focus on building trust, and it's so much easier to do this in person. Fly to your prospect and start building a connection.
In the middle phases, an in-person meeting can help sustain the momentum. It's also a great way to meet more people on a buying team and expand your trust to more people.
In the final stages, meeting in person is effective in re-establishing mutual purpose and the connection that brought both parties this far.
During the times in between, it's acceptable to have update calls and video conferences to keep things going.
Verdict: Meet in person at key stages; use remote communications to sustain progress.
When a relationship with an employee or a client doesn't work out, take the high road and deliver the bad news in person.
"Where and when you conduct the event is really important," says Steve Cadigan, CEO of Cadigan Talent Ventures, a Silicon Valley recruitment consulting company. "If you are conducting this meeting in the office, then chose a time when few people are in the office." A personal conversation when others aren't around is a sign of respect.
Verdict: Meet in person.
4. All-Hands Meetings
If you have a remote workforce, gather everyone in the same location at least once per year. When you need to address the group between major gatherings, video conferences work perfectly well.
If you want to present in person to dispersed offices, assign someone to take questions from remote parties on the live feed. I've found a lot of success by using platforms like Zoom, which allow me to read body language and respond in kind.
Does running all-staff meetings by video cut into the camaraderie? List-making app Trello doesn't think so. "Half of the company is in New York City and the other half is remotely distributed, so we have adopted a remote-first policy," explains Community Manager Brian Cervino. "This has been a powerful way of creating a shared experience across the entire company."
5. Learning and Development (L&D)
Investing in your team is a key part of sustaining a fulfilled workforce and recruiting talent. While hands-on coaching and development is needed, companies and leaders shouldn't shy away from virtual environments for learning and development.
"Imagine a workforce where employees are happy, engaged, and doing the best work of their careers," says Mary Shindler, Senior Program Manager on the Learning and Development Team at LinkedIn. "That's what we're hoping to achieve with L&D."
Stay focused on the benefits of L&D by creating a curriculum that can be accessed online, as well as cultivating in-person sessions. Virtual curriculums are especially important if you have a remote team.
Verdict: Video and in-person.
6. Customer Support
Most companies offer customer support over the phone, while some conduct it through messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger. Neither channel, however, actually lets customers show you what's wrong with their product or share their screen.
"Video customer service has a lot of benefits," notes Kelsey Jones, senior product marketing manager at Salesforce. "Using video chat customer service helps you stand out because you can provide a customer service solution that many of your competitors likely aren't using."
Let customers record a video call and submit them for review if you don't have enough staff for live sessions.
7. Investor Pitch
Big rewards require big risks. You can't expect to acquire capital if you don't get in front of investors. Yet, you also don't want to just send a pitch deck and hope they open it.
The answer, according to one venture investor? Conduct a video meeting followed -- hopefully -- by an in-person visit. "Investors will make a decision to pass on your business based on your deck," warns 2048 Ventures Managing Partner Alex Iskold. "Once they decide to pass, it will be difficult to get another look."
Verdict: Video and meet in-person.
Technology has made it easy to conduct a meeting from anywhere, but that doesn't mean video conferencing is the answer for every scenario. Some meetings thrive in the video setting. Some meetings require that you be there in person. Hone your intuition with these guidelines and determine how to best conduct the meetings that will determine your success.