Some research about face-to-face communication at live events
Why is that magical things happen at trade shows? Or at conferences, user group meetings, and live corporate events? Is it just passé that we who are older than 40 still like to see and talk to people in person? Are we just refusing to admit the inevitable; that some combination of email, webinars, texting, conference calls, video conferencing, and twitter are all we really need to do to meet people, establish relationships and do some business?
I don’t think we’re kidding ourselves about the value of looking someone in the eye when they’re standing three feet away from you, and talking with them. We in the face-to-face marketing and sales business may not be able to quantify it, but we intuitively know that face-to-to face interaction and communication is better. We may not be able to tell you exactly why this is the case, but there is some research to support our own feelings.
The following is from an article in the NY Times on April 5th, 2010 by Benedict Carey (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/health/06mind.html?ref=science): In a series of studies, psychologists have found that social bonding between conversation partners is highly dependent on a rhythmic and usually subconscious give and take of gestures and expressions that creates a kind of shared good will. “Part of that could be the buying in on the interaction itself,” Dr. Chartrand said.
And I have often cited the research done by Professor Albert Mehrabian at UCLA regarding how much is communicated face-to-face, with just your voice, and with just your words. Here’s what Professor Mehrabian found:
7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.
7% of meaning in the words that are spoken.
38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
55% of meaning is in facial expression.
So this means that when you’re talking with someone live, face-to-face, you’ve got all the potential communication working for you. And 55% of what’s being communicated is non-verbal. This means trust, rapport, and getting to know the other person happens faster and actually happens at all.
If you’re on the phone you drop down to less than half of the potential communication: 45%. This means you have to be a lot more precise with what you say, as the person you’re talking to can’t see your facial expressions and body language.
And if you only have email or texting, only words, you’ve got about 7% working for you. Maybe 9% with some emoticons :). Precision is really key when it’s only words that are being communicated as some words have slightly different meanings to different people. And you sometimes have no idea what kind of mood or state-of-mind the other party is in and misinterpretations a lot more likely.
That’s why live events work. If you want people to have meaningful, human experiences, live events are it all happens in business. People still do business with people.
If you’re in a commodity business, where price and delivery are really the key differentiators, then personal relationships between the supplier and the buyer probably don’t matter much, if there’s a relationship at all. I don’t think anybody at OfficeMax knows me because I order office supplies through their website.
But if, like me, you’re in a business that requires some marketing and selling, then establishing relationships, rapport, and trust still count. In fact, they are required. No one is going to do business with a training company like mine without at least talking to someone over the phone. Or at least they shouldn’t. When your product is a service, it’s harder to sell and how well the service fits the client and well the service is delivered makes a huge difference.
The research backs up what most of us have already known: even though all the information about your company and its products and services are on your website, it’s just different when you’re standing face-to-face with someone saying the same thing. It’s personal and most people still like to do business with other people, not just with websites.