Sep 23rd 2012 | Pete Sherwood
It goes without saying that in order to close deals and build relationships in the business world companies and their clients should, ideally, be conducting essential meetings face-to-face. However, it also is a known fact that meetings are expensive and time consuming and the stakes keep rising as the travel distance increases. With teleconferencing, email, and numerous web-driven, informal meeting solutions to choose from as alternatives to travel, managers walk a tenuous line between added expenditures and potential outcomes.
A handshake always prevails
While the cost advantages are significant, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication with a client. Meeting face-to-face allows participants the chance to develop trust and transparency among each other in ways that are simply not possible in other forms of communication. Trust, as we all know, is an integral part of business relationships and can be established much more quickly in person when compared to email or phone-calls. Integrity and business skills can also be communicated with ease through posture, voice, and overall confidence. This confidence is key and plays a large part in a client’s faith in your company or product.
The research speaks for itself
A study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, an esteemed journal that focuses on organizational psychology and human cognition and judgment, used 22 test groups to compare the difference between face-to-face communication and computer/teleconferencing mediation. The groups were judged in terms of their decision-making effectiveness, time to make decisions, and group member satisfaction. It was determined that “Computer-mediated communication may be an efficient and rapid means of disseminating information, but the research suggests that it is not the most effective means of making group decisions. Managers must make the decision as whether the cost savings in travel expenses and time outweigh the potential decrements in quality of decisions reached.” They added, “[…] the overall impact of computer-mediated communication indicates that its use is associated with more negative work outcomes than occur in face-to-face groups” 
Another similar study in 2007 using Taiwanese subjects showed clearly that “[…] face-to-face groups were significantly better at problem analyses establishment of decision making criteria, and were more efficient than groups using computer mediate communication channels.”
In a nutshell
In summary, when it’s reasonable to meet face-to-face, whether internally as a company or with clients on the road, go out there and shake a hand or two. Rest assured that the relationship enrichment far outweighs the added expense.
 Baltes, B.B, Dickson, M. W., Sherman, M. P., Bauer, C. C., & LaGanke, J.S., (2002), Computer- mediated communication and group decision-making: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 87, 156-179.
 Li, S-C. (2007), Computer- mediated communication and group decision making: A functional perspective. Small Group Research, 38, 593-614.