When Face-to-Face Meetings Trump Virtual Meetings

Thanks to advances in technology, virtual meetings are more personal and engaging than ever before, but the in-person, face-to-face meeting is never going away.

Increasingly, workers are more comfortable using video and audio conferencing technology, and companies recognize the benefits of online meetings, such as greater reach and efficiency. Along with affordability, better user experience and other factors, online meetings seem more popular now than ever.

However, some studies prove that dramatic or complete cuts to business travel result in profit loss. This is because in-person meetings still offer a value that virtual meetings can’t (yet).

What’s Missing in Virtual Meetings

When do face-to-face meetings trump virtual meetings? In-person meetings triumph when the costs and logistics of travel outweigh the costs of what virtual meeting software cannot deliver.

So what’s missing in virtual meetings?

• Uninterrupted Presence: Online meetings facilitate simultaneous interaction, but you’re not in the same physical environment, which means environmental stimuli will cause distractions on one end that the other side does not see. Technical mishaps and online meeting functions also divide focus, so instead of devoting attention to the dialogue, hosts and guests mute background noises or fumble with audio.

• Full Body Language: Your eyes, mouth, brows and other facial features reveal more than what you say, but there are many more types of body language that you may not see through a webcam. This is especially important for high-stakes meetings like closing major deals for sales professionals or final interviews for human resources. In person, the host can see whether someone nervously taps their foot or where they place their hands, and even outside of the meeting room, the host can see when they arrive and how they treat others in the office. These clues give sales professionals better control over meetings with clients or human resources a richer understanding of candidates.

• Interpersonal Trust: In between, before and after meetings time is built in for pleasantries and personal small talk, and by traveling to a location or sharing lunch, we make investments in professional relationships. In-person meetings also offer a richer sensory experience that helps cultivate trust. For example, our sense of touch, like shaking hands, communicates emotions we omit from professional conversations.

Virtual Meetings Still Shine
When you need absolute attention, more participation and all the communication tools you can get, in-person meetings deliver. However, virtual meetings still share a variety of benefits as in-person meetings, such as:

• Engagement: Distractions continue to be a challenge for online meeting participants, but the solution is in the way we run meetings, not due to technological limitations. Online meeting software now offers so many features that allow for just as much participation as in-person meetings. With enhanced visibility, live chat, polls and surveys and even sub-conferencing features, guests can easily ask questions, gain clarity, brainstorm and collaborate together. It’s just a matter of finding what works for your meetings.

• Non-Verbal Cues: While we can’t always see a person’s entire body language in a virtual meeting, we do see their facial expressions. Non-verbal cues such as eye contact, smiling, leaning forward or even the way someone is dressed communicates so much that we miss with only audio conferencing.

• Connection: Unlike email and chat, video helps us connect and put a name to a face so we can build better relationships with clients and team members.

Face to Face Versus Virtual Meetings: Final Thoughts
Companies need to recognize the importance of balance and diversity when it comes to meeting. Marketing may want to meet in person with an agency to establish congeniality but move ongoing meetings online to save time. Likewise, while online meetings allow sales teams to nurture a larger net of leads, in-person meetings may work better when it’s time to close.

Until workers can hologram-in to meetings, a combination of virtual and in-person meetings supports long-term collaboration and relationship building.

Technology is getting us there, though. Current limitations in online meetings will continue to fade, and eventually virtual meetings and video collaboration will be just as immersive and interactive as meeting in person. Other limitations will dissolve once workers change the way they run meetings. Simply turning the webcam on instead of relying on a static photo transforms the way we meet.

But, you don’t have to wait around for futuristic technology to change the way you meet online. Check out some of these related posts to find out how to host better meetings now!

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Image Source: Flickr

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