From the headline, you know what I've been thinking of late. Even though we are all connected electronically these days, most significant business still takes place face to face. People like to know who they are working with and depending on, and it's difficult to get that sense in cyberspace or over a phone line. And companies still need to motivate the people who are responsible for their success. That's why corporate meetings and incentives are more important than ever right now.

I recently met with several corporate presidents about a national deal we'd been discussing. I had met everyone involved before and had known several of the people for years, yet we flew to a convenient location to discuss details, expectations, and rollout plans for our venture. We even shared a working lunch — literally and symbolically “breaking bread” together.

An interesting side note: Where did everyone in the room first meet each other? At corporate meetings, every single one.

My wife's company has a big potential client in Germany they are courting. Could their sales rep handle the task? Perhaps. He's certainly done a great job thus far. But there's something about the top brass showing up that has no substitute, so the company's founder and president is making the trek with him. He's showing that he cares enough to be there in person. And where did the company first meet this potential new client? At a trade show.

Proof in Numbers

For those who don't consider these examples strong enough proof of the power of meetings and incentives, there's plenty of research to back me up. The Incentive Research Foundation has found that sales incentives generate a net return on investment of about 84 percent. According to the IRF, over $77 billion is spent on motivational meetings ($26 billion), special events ($38 billion), and incentive travel ($13 billion), with two-thirds of companies surveyed using at least one of these forms of incentives.

The goals of these programs were sometimes “soft,” such as motivating productivity (67 percent) or fostering teamwork (53 percent). But the users considered this anything but wasted money. In fact, over 89 percent of corporate management executives surveyed believe that meetings are an investment rather than an expense.

Nothing of value can be created in a vacuum. Being human, we need others to work with, to discuss plans with, to challenge and inspire us, to test and explore ideas, and, yes, to celebrate with.

It was Woody Allen who once observed, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” I think he got the percentage wrong. I think it's closer to 98 percent. And it's not just “showing up” that matters; it's “making the connection” that counts the most.

Live meetings are proof that you care enough to show up — to meet and network and share ideas and plans, to build trust and assuage fears. And maybe to even have some fun. Is it still okay to have fun?

I sure hope so or else all hope is truly lost.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc. and a frequent presenter to management groups, conferences, and events. He is the best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook. Visit for more information.

For More Info

To dig a little deeper, visit the Incentive Research Foundation at for a downloadable pdf.

For more information, visit the Incentive Research Foundation.

Click here for a new Forbes magazine survey on the importance of face to face meetings.