According to a survey conducted by Meetings Mean Business (MMB), 91 percent of small business owners plan to spend as much or more on travel for meetings in 2017 compared to 2016.

Speaking on behalf of small business owners and meeting industry suppliers, Dan Berger of Washington, DC-based Social Tables believes that face-to-face meetings provide a return on investment and help grow the bottom line.

“Meetings have helped Social Tables expand our customer base, enhance our software and ultimately grow our business,” Berger says. “It’s a competitive advantage we have used to build relationships with new clients, motivate employees and demonstrate thought leadership. Meetings are simply part of the fabric of our company.”

APCO Insight, an international opinion research firm, conducted the online survey commissioned by the Meetings Mean Business coalition in September and October. There  were 300 respondents representing 24 industries, including 100 small business owners in the technology industry. All respondents described themselves as an owner, founder, CEO or president of a small business, which employs fewer than 250 employees.

Here are a few findings based on the MMB survey of small business owners:

• 77 percent say in-person meetings yield a healthy return on investment. Among those who specialize in technology, that number is noticeably higher, at 95 percent.

• 82 percent of small business owners agree that building partnerships is best done in-person, followed by negotiating agreements (75 percent), finding potential new hires (71 percent), networking (68 percent), engaging with the community (68 percent), exploring new business opportunities (60 percent) and training new employees (59 percent).

• 87 percent of those surveyed say that the ability to meet in-person has a meaningful impact on building relationships.

• 78 percent agree that connecting face-to-face with current and prospective customers improves their ability to run their business, as does attending in-person education events (68 percent), attending or presenting at conferences (68%) and engaging face-to-face with the community (63 percent).

• 91 percent of small business owners in the technology field agree that connecting face-to-face with customers and attending or presenting at conferences improves their ability to run their business.

• 75 percent of tech small business owners place high priority on networking, and 81 percent prioritize industry conferences and trade shows.

“The small business owner community is a critical contributor to our economy, and in-person meetings help this community make the most out of their investments,” says Richard Harper, executive vice president at HelmsBriscoe and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business. “MMB’s survey illustrates that small business owners who connect with current and potential customers face-to-face build stronger partnerships that ultimately grow their bottom line.”