By now, most of you know that I’m not a huge fan of the “let’s meet for coffee” meeting. But that doesn’t mean I won’t do them. Certainly, I do business most often in the virtual space. I’ve never met the majority of my clients in person. They’ve read my book, read articles I’ve written, and seen my client testimonials, so they know I know what I’m doing, and from there it’s just a matter of talking on the phone to make sure we’re a good fit before they hire me.

But when you do business (especially in the Midwest), one must be prepared for the face-to-face meetings. Here’s why these meetings are so important in business and how you can do them the right way.

Meeting face to face in business
See, these two right here are clearly up to no good. Well, that woman is definitely planning something. And they might’ve fooled you on the phone. I’m just saying.

Why Face-to-Face Meetings Still Matter in Business

Face to face meetings still matter because sometimes, you just want to look somebody in the eyeballs and gauge their sincerity in person. Because I’m trained to hear subtle nuances in paralanguage (the “extra” stuff in your voice like pitch, pace of speech, tone, little shifts), I don’t need to see you in person to know if you’re giving me the runaround or holding something back.

But most people don’t have my training and need to look you in the eyes to assess your integrity. And sometimes, a handshake means everything. So as much as we are in a digital world, face-to-face meetings still matter a lot in business.

How To Be Smart About Your Face-to-Face Meetings

Since you’re going to have to have face-to-face meetings, you’re going to have to be smart about them.

Plan Your Time

One of my beefs with face-to-face meetings is that I really don’t have a lot of time to go out and have coffee with everyone who wants to. So I try to steer as many meetings to the phone as possible, so that I can maximize efficiency. The other reason I don’t like face-to-face meetings is that I rarely wear a watch, and I tend to become so fascinated in the conversations I’m in, meetings tend to drag on too long. When I’m on the phone, I can keep an eye on my clock and make sure I’m adhering to my schedule and being respectful of the other person’s time.

When you go to a face-to-face meeting, make sure you do wear a watch or set an alarm on your phone so that you are respectful of the other person’s schedule and also don’t take too much time out of your schedule. Plan ahead when you’re going to leave and stick to that schedule religiously.

Also, I like to stack my face-to-face meetings on just one day a week. That way, I’m not driving around town all week meeting people for coffee, instead of actually engaging in revenue-generating activities. I have one day for meetings, then my other days are free for writing and client work.

Don’t Focus on the Get – Make It Human

When you’re meeting with people face-to-face, it’s not about getting business. Don’t make it all about you and your sales process. Make it human by getting to know the other person and what they’re all about. Pay attention to what they say—really listen. And don’t just talk business. This is a human being sitting across the table from you. Don’t be afraid to connect on a human level. If there’s a business opportunity, it will emerge organically in the conversation. You shouldn’t have to sell or push.

Avoid the Temptation

Many of you are, like me, in a service business. As such, you probably (also like me) love what you do. But when you’re in a face-to-face meeting, avoid the temptation to consult, coach, provide answers, or deliver the service you get paid to deliver. It’s hard because people expect you’ll answer their questions, but it’s perfectly okay (and honestly? This is what you should be doing:) to say that you can’t answer responsibly or accurately without more information. And more importantly, you must learn to demonstrate your credibility and capabilities without giving away the farm so that people don’t have to hire you (remember that “Why buy the cow?” thing?)

Meeting face to face is really valuable in today’s fast-paced digital world. Time and geography don’t always make it possible, but when you can make it happen and be smart about it, you’ll most likely find your business success increases as a result.

So what about you? Do you get great results from face-to-face meetings or could you take ‘em or leave ‘em?