Let's get physical: the case for meaningless meetings

Mike Burton

Since the pandemic pushed everyone online, in-person meetings seem like a frivolous, old-fashioned waste of time and resources. But maybe that’s exactly why they should make a triumphant return... 

Letters are effective because they’re not email.

An email takes seconds to type, it costs nothing and it arrives seconds after you click send. Handwritten letters are the opposite. They are carefully written, take at least a day to arrive and cost money to send. 

In a world of overflowing inboxes crammed with half-thought-through emails, a letter says more. A letter makes an effort. 

COVID has made it perfectly normal to do all your meetings online. You could go the rest of your life without ever meeting a client in person and no one would find it odd. In fact, it’s sensible. It’s efficient. And we know how much businesses love efficiency. 

But, I believe the people who defy the new normal are the ones who will reap the rewards in a post-pandemic environment. 

Here’s why...

Why engagement rings are expensive
(No one wants a cheap engagement ring)

Engagement rings shouldn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. After all, it’s about love and commitment, isn’t it? The price shouldn’t matter. But it does. 

Evolutionary biologists argue that wedding rings have to be expensive (relative to the person’s income) because they are a signal of investment. 

By splashing out several thousand pounds on a ring, you signal your commitment for the long term. 

If your partner found out your engagement ring cost £12 from a bargain bin, they might still love it, but they might also wonder how long you were intending to hang around. 

And giving them the, “I was trying to be efficient and look after our bottom line” argument would probably make things worse. 

Want long-term clients? Show them you’re a long-term business. Make a gesture. You don’t have to get on one knee and present them with an 18-carat diamond ring, but getting off your office chair is a good start. 

Meetings with no agenda

Zoom and its ilk have eliminated the logical reason behind in-person meetings. “We need to discuss X and review Y, let’s have a meeting” — those days are over. Now, we need a new reason to make the effort. 

Zoom commoditises time  because it standardises the context in which everyone interacts. And, as Sally Hogshead says in her excellent book How The World Sees You, “Commoditization threatens your relationships and loyalty.”

That means you can be out-priced, out-skilled, out-negotiated, out-everythinged by the next charismatic networker on Clubhouse. 

Whereas, if someone has shared dinner with you and spent an afternoon enjoying your company, they’ll be committed to the relationship. 

An engagement ring can’t be useful. It has no intrinsic value. That’s the point of it. It’s a pure and honest expression of commitment. There’s a reason why we don’t give Swiss Army Knives as declarations of devotion. 

Meet your clients in person, without an agenda. Eat lunch. Sip a cocktail. Hire a pedalo. Have an experience together. 

Business is about relationships. And meeting in person will strengthen yours. 

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