By Daniel Hunter

British businesspeople are underestimating the power of a firm handshake and it could be costing UK businesses over a fifth (21%) of their annual revenue, a new global research report by Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has revealed.

The report - Business Meetings in a Modern World, which surveyed more than 2,000 business men and women across the UK, US, United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and India has revealed that businesspeople are busier than ever, with both face-to-face and virtual meetings (such as teleconferencing and conference calls) on the rise.

However, virtual meetings are growing at a faster rate than face-to-face meetings, despite 23% of people questioned stating that the lack of face-to-face communication has led to loss of deals and contracts — costing their business on average, over a fifth (21%) of their annual revenue.

The report reveals the most important factors to get right for a successful meeting, include;

- Meeting between 10:30 — 12pm on a Tuesday.
- Connecting via social media before meeting a new contact - one in five (19%) of all business men and women have successfully built trust with other professionals through social media before meeting face-to-face, with Facebook (48%) favoured over LinkedIn (42%). Over a quarter (25%) questioned stated that social media has helped them establish more trusted relationships with business partners.
- Involving no more than seven attendees for the most productive meetings.
- Using six minutes of small talk to break the ice — the journey (54%) and the weather (51%) being key topics of conversation for the Brits, unlike business people in China, India and UAE who are more likely to discuss news and current affairs.

Despite it being a well-established meeting tool representing strength, confidence and helping to establish trust between attendees, the handshake only featured in the research as the 9th most important non-verbal cue to get right when meeting a business partner face-to-face (behind being well dressed, well groomed and smiling).

Hazel Carter-Showell, Business psychologist and body language expert, said: “It’s very important not to underestimate the value of a good handshake. Skin to skin contact, such as a handshake, releases oxytocin (also known as the bonding hormone) which can create a feeling of contentment and security, and help to establish a trusted relationship.

“Although developments in technology allow business men and women to make achievements in meetings that would have been impossible a few years back, meeting face-to-face continues to bring significant benefits — such as building trust and less risk of misinterpretation — that are much harder to obtain through virtual channels.”

The findings show that reducing the risk of misinterpretation was a key advantage of face-to-face meeting for an overwhelming majority (74%) of British business people surveyed. Additionally, 61% of business men and women believe the ability to use humour in face-to-face meetings is important for building a working relationship.

Starting a new business relationship (57%), finalising a deal (54%) and contract negotiation (53%) are the top subjects respondents prefer to discuss face-to-face.

Janis Cannon, Global Vice President, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, IHG added: “The findings are clear. Virtual meetings can save time and money, but there are times when sealing a deal requires a handshake and 'seeing the whites of the eyes' of a business associate. At Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, we empower our guests to do both. Our highly trained Crowne Plaza Meetings Directors tailor meetings to individual needs, whether physical or virtual, to ensure they are set up for success.

“The scale and diversity of our family of brands means that our hotels can meet our guests’ needs whatever the occasion. We listen to our guests closely to ensure we continue to do this and this research has helped us to further understand the needs of business travellers."

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