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  • Writer's pictureRaquel Weiss Fusco

Let’s Meet Over Golf, Drinks or at a Conference

The Importance of Face-to-Face Conversation in the Digital Age

SHFM Critical Issues Conference
Raquel Weiss Fusco and Seth Prager behind the elite | studio e booth at the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management Critical Issues Conference this past spring.

Imagine this … It’s 7 a.m., the sun is shining and you’re at the range warming up for a charity golf outing. Despite having a terrible slice, it’ll be a good day because you’re playing alongside a client that you’ve been trying to connect with for a meeting. You’ve not only brought your A-game, but you know face-to-face meetings work. And the summer is a perfect time to make those happen.

In today’s busy world, it’s amazing to me what businesses and employees can do virtually. In recent years, we have seen unparalleled advances in video calls, conferencing and messaging leading to an increase in employees working remote. In fact, companies have closed headquarters for virtual offices around the world. And, in the case of elite|studio e (where I work), we have the technology to tour a conceptual design using virtual reality while being in two different locations!

Naturally, there are pros and cons to living in this digital age. But even with all these advances, there’s no replacement for face-to-face meetings. They give all parties involved a chance to develop trust and transparency easily; the opportunity to understand body language; and make focusing easier. According to an article in The Washington Post, “More than eight in ten executives prefer in-person meetings to virtual contact, noting they create space for tough, timely business decisions and foster more complex strategic thinking.”

In my opinion, the key to building relationships and having a successful meeting is more than just a video conference. It’s about taking that extra plane, train, or automobile to deepen a relationship or close a deal. And like I said before, summer is the perfect time for this. These past few months, people in my office have been catching up with colleagues and friends at charity golf outings, an informal happy hour filled with team members, and a Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management baseball game in Boston, MA.

AJC Food Service & Hospitality Dinner
Nearly half of the elite | studio e team participated in the 2019 AJC Food Service and Hospitality Division dinner. Multiple generations from several companies, including elite | studio e, were present at the event.

We even made it to a few industry events and expanded our horizons a bit too, participating in The National Association of College and University Food Services Conference and the American Institute of Architects National Conference. Nearly 50 percent of the elite|studio e team also attended the AJC Food Service and Hospitality Division Gala (check out last month’s Total Foodservice for that article). I thoroughly enjoyed seeing people from so many facets of the industry — consultants, foodservice designers, reps, operators and more — gather together for a cause.

In addition to that personal connection and those fun activities, what really brings us together is … food! The foodservice and hospitality industries provide a variety of forums for educational takeaways too. NAFEM, the NRA Show, and SHFM’s Critical Issues and National conferences, are all great resources to learn something new about what we do.

I’m also a huge fan of the lunch and learn. Who doesn’t love a free meal or a live demonstration? A few weeks ago, our team had the opportunity to meet with a factory representative for breakfast and to try out a new bean-to-cup coffee maker. The machine was in our office most of the day. I must tell you we all really enjoyed the coffee and the experience. However, odds are, the rep now thinks our team drinks way too much coffee!

One more important thing to note about professional events and programs is that I’m seeing an increasing number of participants from the younger generations. I really enjoy getting together with people my age who share professional and personal interests. When I look at some of these different events and see people who have been in the industry for 20+ years, they’ve evolved and have created friendships. I’m excited to be part of this new wave that’s happening. I’m also happy to say many of these organizations are seeing it too and creating smaller groups within them, like SHFM’s Rising Stars and the AJC Young Professionals Division, to attract professionals in their 20s to 40s.

Hopefully, if you take away one thing from this column, it’s that no matter how much convenience technology provides, face-to-face meetings are still extremely important. On that note, I’m can’t wait to head out to Palm Springs, CA, for the SHFM National Conference in September. I’ll get to catch up with colleagues and see many of the friends I’ve made over the years. Hopefully, I’ll see you there too!

I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate my dad, Eric Weiss, and all the honorees from the AJC Food Service and Hospitality Dinner. And lastly, I hope you all have a wonderful summer. Cheers!

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