There’s something called the “Hollywood handshake.” It’s when someone shakes your hand, but instead of looking you in the eye, they scan the room to see if there’s anyone more important to speak to. (We don’t like those people.)
The way we decide not to like Hollywood handshakers is rooted in the 7/38/55 Rule, introduced by nonverbal communication pioneer Professor Albert Mehrabian. According to the 7/38/55 Rule, our decision to like or not we like a person is weighted only 7% on that person’s words. Tone of voice accounts for 38% of our decision and nonverbal communication weighs in at a whopping 55%.
In business, liking someone often results from feelings like trust and respect. Want higher quality business relationships? Then get out of the virtual world and meet people in person. It’s one of the main reasons people go to industry conferences – because people get a better idea of who they want to do business with (i.e. who they trust and respect) after meeting people face to face.
I’d known my NEXT business partner Molly Dowdy via email and phone years before we’d actually spent time together in person. And while I liked the virtual Molly well enough, it wasn’t until we met face to face and spent time together that, long story short, we created and launched the first women’s mortgage technology conference. No coincidence there.
It was nonverbal — not verbal — communication that prompted us to launch into conversations that rarely happen in email- and business call-only relationships. By getting face to face, I got to see Molly as a person, and vice versa.
We parted that in-person meeting as business friends, so when she returned to home to Edmond, Oklahoma and I returned to Paris, France, it was seamless and easy to have the frank discussions that led to our partnership to create NEXT.
We voiced complaints about some of our personal experiences in the industry, our passion for the causes we found important, and our goals for the legacies we want to leave behind—all topics that would have been too personal or not professionally relevant enough to breach had our communication been limited to email and phone calls.
Industry conferences offer a great opportunity to meet face to face. But not all conferences are created equal. Are the networking events designed to allow you to really get to know someone, or are you simply handing out business cards after a handshake and a nice to meet you? If you’re not connecting, you’re missing an opportunity.
Find a conference with events that bring people together and cultivate clear, direct conversations. The typical loud conference bar will preclude 38% of the 7/38/55 Rule simply because you can’t hear anyone’s tone of voice.
I don’t think NEXT would exist if Molly’s and my in-person contact was limited to exchanging business cards in a crowded conference bar. It most certainly wouldn’t had we never met in person. We would have missed the opportunity to co-create an event whose mission is to make a huge improvement in our industry’s workplace equality going forward.
While I see benefit from virtual connections, there’s no substitution for meeting face to face. In person meetings can spark all sorts of opportunities that wouldn’t materialize through strictly email and phone communication. If you’re building relationships without meeting in person, you’re not just missing loads of valuable input, you’re probably missing out on some once in a lifetime opportunities, as well.