Amid hyper-globalisation, in-person meetings are key to business success.

Although important relationships are globally distributed, business leaders say they want more collaboration in person when it comes to activities such as brainstorming for new ideas, managing a specific crisis or making presentations. This is among the findings from a Economist Intelligence Unit survey, Business leaders’ views on interaction.

While the primary function of meetings is to build relationships with customers, some 89% of respondents say communications where the parties can see and respond to each other benefit internal business functions such as employee coaching and training as well as communications with partners and customers. An additional 43% of respondents use meetings to discuss and resolve major issues with customers such as a service or product failure or dissatisfaction with the partnership. Motivations for expanding these meetings also include contract renewals, brainstorming sessions and being introduced to other clients or customers within the organisation.

The EIU survey, sponsored by Cisco explores the challenges of global enterprise collaboration and the perceived value of different types of business communications, including telephone, instant messaging, email and conferencing. Respondents were also asked their views on what business processes can be most impacted through in-person interaction as well as on potential productivity gains through these efforts.

The 862 global senior executives surveyed identified a number of key trends in business communications. These include:

Face time is a priority. When it comes to different stakeholders, business leaders attach greater importance to in-person meetings with customers than with colleagues, partners or suppliers. More than half (54%) of respondents to an Economist Intelligence Unit survey said they see meetings with customers as having the greatest impact on their business. This need for face time relates to how most respondents (56%) ranked the most important aspect of business collaboration: determining audience engagement and focus.

Email is getting in the way. Business leaders in all categories cite email as the primary tool used in collaborating with colleagues, partners and customers (as much as 66% for senior managers) with the telephone identified as the second most-used business communication tool (25%). However, neither text nor voice alone was cited as the best option in communicating critical information in a global business.

Motivations for more meetings differ regionally. Asked to pick their strongest motivation for meetings with colleagues outside of their own office, respondents from Asia-Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) are most interested in resolving a problem quickly. However, US business leaders are motivated more by cost reductions in meetings with colleagues. Non-US respondents are also more interested in generating better long-term relationships during their meetings with partners and customers.

Industry dictates motivations as well. In meeting with business partners or suppliers, respondents in the consumer goods industry are most likely to meet face to face to give or receive direction, while business leaders in energy/transportation, technology and services are most likely to meet to generate better long-term relationships. Respondents in other industries are most likely to meet with partners to be motivated or inspired.

To supplement the survey, the EIU hosted a roundtable discussion with two industry leaders, Joan Parsons, head of US banking for Silicon Valley Bank, and Morten Hansen, a management professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Information and co-author of the book, Great by Choice, about their perspectives on business communications.

An analysis of the findings will be included as part of a video – CLICK HERE.

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