How Important is Face Time?

By Deane Barker on June 6, 2007

In this world of remote teams and outsourcing, does face-to-face contact matter anymore? Does a face-to-face meeting with your team members or client increase your ability to work together and your effectiveness as a team?

A few different things have gotten me thinking about this —

First, I’m traveling to San Francisco next week. I have a client in Los Angeles that I’m trying to persuade to fly up for a quick dinner meeting to discuss his project and some other issues. Sure, it’s an expense, but it strikes me that it’s small in comparison to the value it would have to the project.

Second, I have an acquaintance that is suddenly outsourcing quite a bunch of work to India. He was being pressured to do this, but resisted until he went to Bangalore to visit. He spent a week there and was impressed with everyone in a way that he had never been remotely.

Along these same lines, the only good experiences I have heard with offshoring work is from people who regularly sent representatives to the offshored location to visit with the contractors doing the work. They all claimed that the face-to-face meetings changed everything, and it would have been a mess without them.

Finally, I’ve been following the Truemors story over at Aaron’s blog. Truemors is a site Electric Pulp did for Guy Kawasaki. In the past, Kawasaki has famously said something like this:

On a 1.0 release, the maximum distance between the development team and the marketing team should be 50 feet.

However, the guys over at EP apparently impressed the crap out of him, because he has said this about working with them on Truemors.

Honestly, I wasn’t a believer in remote teams trying to work together on version 1 of a product, but Electric Pulp changed my mind.

So, I’m going to drag Aaron into this post by asking him this question —

Aaron, has anyone at EP actually met Guy Kawasaki face-to-face on this project or just in general? If so, do you think it helped you work together on this project? If not, do you think it would have helped?



  1. None of us have met Guy in person – correspondence has always been via email or phone. We’ve worked with him on a few projects leading up to truemors, though, so we did have a general familiarity built up already.

    A face to face meeting is great for a pitch, but it’s so rare for us to approach prospects that way, that I’m not even sure I could argue its benefit.

    As for project flow, face to face becomes necessary (for us) only with scale. Project scopes that span 2 months or less rarely require planning discussions deep enough to benefit from on-site meetings.

    Coincidentally, it seems the cooler the city the client calls home, the more necessary it is for us to visit.

    Have fun in the other SF.

  2. Face time can help a lot early in a client relationship, as face time tends to establish trust faster than phone-time. However, by being super-responsive to emails and phone calls, and by communicating effectively, you can accomplish just the same.

  3. Must admit I’m not too good on the phone anyway, but also depends on the person I’m communicating with. Sometimes body language (facial expressions) can let you see where someone might be getting confused, which can take longer to diagnose by other means of communication. We shouldn’t be replacing face to face meetings with other methods but merely augmenting and increasing communication.

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