Will We Ever Meet In Person Again?

Will We Ever Meet In Person Again?

There’s no denying that the business world has been turned upside down in the last two years. Every system and operation has had to be reinvented to accommodate some if not all of the workforce working remotely for a while.

And companies have found that many employees may want that to be a permanent situation for them. So, is this new virtual ecosystem going to work for every business? Can a company survive the eternal zoom meeting? Is the trade off of employee preference worth the possibility of never meeting in person again?

Let’s examine the risks and benefits of eliminating in-person meetings.

First, what are the benefits? In-person meetings include a host of inherit benefits that cannot be replaced any other way.

  • Face to face meetings lead to stronger, more meaningful business relationships. This is pretty obvious. A study by Forbes says that 85% of people agree that the in-person .meeting has an effectiveness in creating a bond that video and telephone interactions cannot match. And of course, this doesn’t just apply to your internal communications. This will be the case with your meetings with vendors and clients as well. Maintaining those connections are crucial and an e-mail or phone just can match the value of a face to face sit down.

  • You can get more information by reading body language, see facial expressions, use context clues and get to know someone’s personality. In a zoom call you can’t see if one of the meeting participants is tapping their pencil on the table in boredom or looking at another tab on their computer. If someone’s camera isn’t on you can’t see if they’re even there! There’s a key aspect of doing business or knowing how a meeting is going called, “reading the room”. Checking on the non-verbal clues of individuals facial expressions and body language will tell a meeting host how the material is being received. This is almost impossible in a zoom meeting and completely impossible on a conference call. Conversely, you don’t have the ability to add your personality to the communicating of your information as a tool of persuasion.

  • You know everyone has gotten the same information at the same time. The reality is, technology breaks. And you can do a recording of a meeting but those are only good if everyone who missed the meeting watches or listens to the recording. But seeing all the players in the room together at one time and knowing that everyone saw and heard the information delivers the confidence that everyone is on the same page.

So, what are the risks? What companies—and more importantly employees—have found over the last months of the pandemic is that many meetings that they have been having aren’t as necessary as the old way of doing things seemed to suggest. It’s caused many organizations to drastically re-evaluate how they conduct business in several ways including:

  • Examine each event and determine should it be a meeting. This may cause some discomfort with those who “own” certain meetings that are deemed unnecessary. And the results mean that all the meetings not in-person now have to be scheduled with a zoom link and confirmed requiring much more work.

  • A remote workforce means no more “watercooler” conversations. If there was a way to measure it, many companies would be shocked by how much of their problems get solved in the breakroom, elevator, restroom or parking deck! Without a staff coming to work those accidental conversations don’t happen and some of that problem-solving doesn’t happen.

  • Clarifying meeting goals might reveal some hard truths. Are your meetings task-based or relationship-based? We have already discussed the tremendous relationship benefits of in-person meetings. But if you meet to update your staff, plan an event, or do a weekly briefing, these can probably be done virtually. However, if you’re giving feedback to an employee, particularly if it’s difficult that should be done face to face. Also, if you need to have any kind of tough conversation with a group where side chats can’t be part of the meeting and drown out the focus of the discussion. This is also a need for an in-person meet.

  • Prior to the pandemic, was your company valuing your employees’ time? Consider how much time each week was devoted to weekly, biweekly or monthly meetings. Now consider how many of those were just to tell each other what we were doing? Or what the company was doing? Is there not any other way to handle these communications? With all the technology we have learned over the last couple years, certainly there might be a way to use it. Some examples include replacing a monthly staff meeting with a recorded video that employees can watch on their own time. Instead of having a Q&A live in zoom m eetings, have someone take notes in a google doc so the meeting participants can go there and see breakout room reports and Q&A answers and time isn’t wasted with reporting redundant information.

  • Consider the struggles of a hybrid meeting. Allowing some in-person and some online participants in the same meeting may seem like the perfect solution to this dilemma but it can have some big drawbacks. First, you must have a meeting host who is tech savvy and presentation savvy enough to facilitate simultaneously across both platforms. Also, technology is never perfect. The chances of the participants dialing in losing connection means possibly an unequal receipt of information.

Obviously, there are several risks and benefits to going back to holding face to face meetings in the just slightly post-pandemic business climate. The lessons to be learned are that it is important to value an employee’s time. It is important to think about what the business needs truly are when making a decision on how and when to gather staff. And to consider how to best manage the flow of information between management, staff and customers in this new environment. For some help, check out the graphic below!