Face to Face

It is a real honor to have been invited to write for FM magazine in 2015, and I look forward to delivering some interesting content over the coming year. I head-up a company that gives people insight into the psychology and skills necessary for exceptional interpersonal communication, and, if this revelation has you asking, “What has this got to do with venue management?,” then read on as the answer is…everything!

You see, while researching into your industry I noted on the IAMV website that venue management is an industry worth “billions of dollars,” and I began to see the slight irony in the fact that although venues host events for others to meet and interact, arguably, one of the main reasons you have become a billion-dollar industry is because you as an industry meet and interact, too.

Imagine if you will that for the next 12 months every work-related face-to-face interaction is forbidden. Go on, really imagine it. All interactions with colleagues, in sales meetings, at trade events, during congresses, and face-to-face negotiations are prohibited.

Now, advances in technology have revolutionized our ability to interact virtually, so for many this might be a solution to this theoretical situation. Some of the virtual conference solutions available are truly astonishing and make you feel that those you are interacting with are just a few feet away. But these people are not a few feet away, and herein lies the problem. I argue that no matter what fantastic virtual solutions technology provides, they should, in the main, only ever be regarded as useful fillers between the times we meet face to face, or, to put it another way, that face-to-face interaction provides the bedrock foundation upon which virtual interaction can be built.

And why do I think this? Well, when people meet face to face they can interact in a far more complex way than via phone or video link. They can look each other in the eye, shake hands, touch each other, and are able to observe body language and facial changes more intimately. The impact of this, for example, are the results of an experiment our psychologist undertook few years ago suggesting that people come up with up to 30 percent more creative ideas when interacting face to face as opposed to video link or phone.

If you want examples of people choosing to still meet face to face then look no further than the IAMV website. I note a great number of events listed including your annual congress. Events such as these are only run if there is demand, so I’ll assume that the need is still there for members to meet, learn, interact, and do business.

So, what is my point? Well I’m arguing that the foundation of your multi-billion dollar industry is in fact face-to-face interaction—and that exceptional communication is a skill that each and every one of you, if you haven’t already, should develop. As the popular quote doing the rounds on social media platforms says: Your professional success will be 5 percent down to your academic credentials, 15 percent to your professional experiences, and 80 percent down to your communication skills. Yes, it is worth analyzing you and your teams’ abilities in this crucial area.

And it isn’t just sales people we are talking about here. While it is true that much of the content we deliver is connected to influence and persuasion, in his excellent book, To Sell is Human, author Daniel H. Pink suggests that not only has the way we sell been totally revolutionized in the last 20 years but the number of us involved in selling has changed, too. Increased levels of entrepreneurship, as well as changes in internal management structure and the global economy, has according to Pink, meant that we are all in sales now—or at least in the “moving” business as he calls it.

It is this specific observation that means whether you are officially in sales or not, your ability to communicate matters. You may be selling your view point, promoting an opinion, persuading, cajoling, coaxing, enticing, or seducing others into your way of thinking. Far from being dark arts that only the sales team learns, these are in fact fundamental skills whether you are in accounts, administration, operations, or advertising.

So, with that in mind, let me delve into our archive of research and leave you with seven ways that psychology suggests may help you interact more effectively with buyers, suppliers, or each other:

1. Offer to buy lunch
It seems that there is indeed no such thing as a free lunch. Psychologists have discovered that people develop a special fondness for other people, objects, and statements if they are introduced to them while eating a meal.

2. Keep your language simple
When selling, it can be a temptation to use long words in an attempt to look more intelligent or impress prospective clients. Don’t! Studies show that when writing or speaking, the use of needlessly long words can have a negative impact on the way you are viewed.

3. If you make a mistake, don’t worry
Research suggests that the empathy we feel for people who make a mistake can lead us to feeling more connected with them. So, if it happens to you when meeting, accept it, acknowledge it, and move on.

4. Make yourself likeable
Time and time again, research has highlighted a direct link between sales success and the “likability” of the person selling. So smile, make eye contact, and ask questions—simple, obvious but powerful behaviors that are proven to work.

5. Limit the choices
Research in behavioral economics suggests it may be best to limit options and that too much choice can put people off making decision. Three options may be the best strategy.

6. Lower your voice
When it comes to listening to others, we tend to rate speakers with deeper voices as seeming more powerful—but apparently only in men. Other perceived benefits included being rated as more truthful, emphatic, potent, and less nervous.

7. Copy those you interact with
As well as highlighting actual similarities, mirroring potential customers verbally and physically has been shown to have a positive impact on connectivity levels.

Thanks for reading; I look forward to sharing more insights throughout the year. FM

(Image: Turinboy/Creative Commons)