Alexander Abramson PLLC November 2019

Your Business Matters • (407) 649-7777 November 2019

Facing the Facts

What Remote Meetings Don’t Give You

At the time of writing, I just got back from a client’s franchisee meeting in Austin, Texas. As happy as I am to be sleeping in my own bed again, I can’t deny it was a great trip. In fact, the experience reaffirmed two core beliefs of mine: There’s nothing like great barbecue, and teleconferencing will never carry the same weight as face-to-face interaction. Now, I know this sounds like I’m about to launch into a manifesto against modern technology, bemoaning the loss of some mythical era when a handshake “meant something,” but that’s not where I’m going with this. I appreciate smartphones and cloud computing as much as any other modern business owner. To tell you the truth, 9 times out of 10, I’d rather hop onto a conference call than into a Boeing 737. The fact that I still came away feeling it only could have been done in person speaks to the event’s success. This isn’t me tooting my own horn, either. Our firm simply played an advisory role in the proceedings. Our client made this franchisee meeting a tour de force. As a company, they go the extra mile to be inclusive — ensuring everyone's voice is heard. Now, this strategy isn’t guaranteed to work on its own. Inclusivity can quickly swing into overindulgence if you aren’t careful — it takes a

practiced hand to keep the meeting’s business moving forward. The CEO, who was leading the meeting, has this skill, and every attendee knew they and their opinions were heard without the conversation devolving into an endless debate and half-measures. I, for one, was impressed. Even the decision to hold this meeting in person had been calculated to keep the event running smoothly. When you hold a meeting over the phone, even when video conferencing, you miss a very important ingredient for reaching consensus: the opportunity for relationship building. This event in Austin was more than a few hours spent in a conference room; there was a cocktail party, a group lunch at Cooper’s Barbecue, and, of course, a group dinner at Iron Cactus. A phone call doesn’t give you the kind of bonding you get from chowing down on beef ribs and coleslaw together.

Face-to-face events like this allow all parties involved the chance to get to know each other outside the context of business proceedings. I can’t overstate how powerful this can be; socializing with others is one of the best ways to build mutual trust. That way, when it comes time to head back to the boardroom, relationships aren’t purely defined by adversarial interests. You’ve fostered the goodwill necessary for authentic, productive discussions and negotiations. Obviously, I had time to reflect on our success during my (long) flight home. At the time, I just had a general impression that the meeting went well. But looking back, I realize this couldn’t have been replicated over the phone. So, next time you have an important meeting, I suggest thinking about doing it in person, preferably somewhere with great barbecue.


–Ed Alexander


(407) 649-7777

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