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Do We Still Need Face to Face Meetings?

May 12th 2022

As the social distancing rules in the UK have been relaxed, businesses can now choose to virtually meet online or in a face to face meeting. With the growth of technology and the pandemic forcing a change in how business is conducted, many people prefer to having a virtual meeting over an offline one.

While there's certainly some benefit, there are also some cons. When you read through this blog, you'll understand why it might still be worthwhile to choose face to face meetings over online scheduled ones.

Face to face meetings make the impact of the message stronger, since non-verbal cues are used as well

Albert Mehrabian, a researcher of body language, found that 55% (with 38% being vocal and only 7% words) of communication is nonverbal, so when we put that into context of seeing someone’s face on a computer screen vs being with someone physically, a lot of communication is missed.  

Whether it is a sales meeting or interviewing a new client you will want to make the person feel welcomed. Eye contact and a smile goes so far, however your body language also helps to create an inviting atmosphere with a hand shake and an open body posture. This also works the other way though as you can see how someone is responding via their non verbal cues, which can give an idea of how comfortable they feel or their general receptiveness towards you.

Having control over the physical environment

Whilst your own body language is something that can help enhance communication, that is missed in an online meeting, the environment by which the face to face meeting is set can also have an impact.

Meeting a potential client in your office, can really showcase your company and the staff you employ. If you have a meeting room that features office furniture that complements the surroundings with a meeting table and comfortable chairs, can really help to build a positive first impression of your company. From the first interaction at the reception desk and waiting room through to walking through the office to the meeting room can create a positive impression before the meeting has begun. Something which you don’t get when you are waiting to be accepted on a Zoom call.

Networking is easier in person than online

Networking events would be very different if they were done online for the simple reason that it is impossible to have more than one conversation at once, without confusion ensuing. With a face to face networking event, you are free to approach and speak to anyone, whether a group or single person at any time. Having the benefit of others around you also talking creates a more relaxed atmosphere, something that you just can’t get in an online Zoom or web call.

You can do more in a shorter time when you meet face to face

A study undertaken by Great Business Schools showed that the numbers of ideas generated during a face to face meeting as opposed to online increased greatly. The mean average of the number of ideas generated during a meeting was 13.36 whereas just 10.43 for online meetings. The quality of those ideas was also higher in a face to face meeting.

One of the reasons for this is the free flow of conversation that takes place when face to face. Allowing ideas to be put on a physical whiteboard during a meeting and with open communication, there is a sense of “bouncing ideas of each other” that technology can seem to prohibit in some way. Having one person talking at a time and the pauses in between people talking can start to add up and disrupt a conversation that would normally be very much free flowing.

Face-to-face meetings are more efficient at building successful business relationships

Humans are social beings, so it makes sense that a sense of trust and rapport is built quicker than by just meeting someone online or on the phone. The ability to read the room and get a sense of the atmosphere in it that is just not able to be achieved when online.

It is also a lot easier for things to get misinterpreted when online as we can miss the all important cues that are lost.

In fact according to the same study by Great Business Schools, 85% of people prefer face to face meetings because it builds stronger and more meaningful relationships over time.

One study in 2014 by German academics showed that delays on the or on conference calls helped to shape a negative view of the person. The study even study even suggested that a pause of just 1.2 seconds made people perceive that the responder was not as friendly or even less focussed. These all begin to mount up and cause a negative image.

Online meetings can drain your energy

An article published that interviewed Marissa Shuffler who studies wellbeing and team work effectiveness and is an associate director at Clemson University, wrote about how online conference calls can actually cause more fatigue than face to face meetings. She said –

“When you're on a video conference, you know everybody's looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful. It’s also very hard for people not to look at their own face if they can see it on screen, or not to be conscious of how they behave in front of the camera.”

 Constantly being aware of how you look on camera and not knowing who is looking at you can be counter productive to a meeting. With some opting to leave out the camera completely, there is also addition of being able to see the background of where you are, often with a lot of meetings being conducted in the home.

So what's the answer?

In conclusion, these are some of the reasons why face to face meetings can still be more preferable than online ones. Whilst in the post pandemic era, online meetings can still be preferable in certain situations as they do have their positives. Hybrid style meetings are becoming increasingly more popular as we see a rise in video conferencing suites and tables being used to create a face to face and online environment. This can be a very worthwhile purchase as businesses choose to adopt combination of remote and office-based ways of working.

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