By Les Fugate
Let’s all admit that sometimes it is just easier to send an email than it is to arrange a meeting or have a face-to-face conversation. In the back of our minds, we know the best way to communicate is in-person, two-way dialogue – but we are tempted by the convenience of a couple keystrokes and the click of the “send” button. After all, personal communication is more time-consuming, and we have many tasks to complete in any given day. So we sacrifice effectiveness for efficiency.
This is one of the reasons I still advocate annual meetings as a top communication tool for associations and organizations. As the executive director of the Kentucky Beverage Association (a state-based industry association) I see the impact that in-person meetings have on the engagement and passion of my members every year. The opportunity to reach attendees with one-on-one conversations and presentations that provide meaningful data they need to understand is something my industry can’t afford to lose.
Sure, it would be cheaper to cut the annual meeting – and some associations have recently done just that – but the return on that (dis)investment just doesn’t add up. There would be immense savings of time and money, but having direct engagement with members is essential to an association’s future success.
At my industry association’s annual conclave in June, we invited candidates for some of Kentucky’s constitutional offices to address their visions for the future of our state. At every board meeting, conference call, or webinar, I provided an update of the political environment in Kentucky, which was valuable to our members in attendance. But the ability to interact directly with these candidates energized my members about the upcoming elections in ways that I could through my own updates.
It isn’t just access to candidates for office that has my members galvanized. If executed properly, annual meetings and conventions provide associations with opportunities to “fire up” their members about the successes of the previous year, the opportunities for the future, and even the challenges that are ahead.
When association leaders start their budgeting processes, many will inevitably feel the urge to cut the annual meeting in order to balance the budget. I simply urge them to remember the opportunity costs.
Study after study show that direct, two-way communication delivers the most effective results of any communication method. While technology can increase engagement, it can’t replace the effectiveness of in-person meetings. These lessons are universal, no matter your industry or your role.
Technology has its time and place, but it doesn’t mean it is always the best means of communication. Don’t take for granted the impact personal communication can have on a message you are trying to deliver.
For greater impact, put down the smart-phone. Close that laptop. Walk down the hall and make your case or schedule a lunch to sell your position.
In-person communication isn’t dead; in fact, it is in need of a revival. Success awaits those who remember its value.