There was once a time when face-to-face meetings were the only way for people to hold discussions and communicate ideas to one another. With the advent of technology, new, easier methods of communication are available, such as virtual meetings by way of Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime, etc. While virtual meetings may be more convenient than scheduling meetings in-person, they create a barrier between attendees, making it harder to truly focus and engage.
Good old-fashioned, face-to-face meetings offer greater benefits for several reasons:
1. Face-to-face meetings allow speakers to capture attention in a way that isn’t possible in a virtual environment
Being in a different atmosphere, like a new conference room or meeting area, stimulates the brain and opens you up to new ideas. Research has found that people are more likely to remember information and think creatively when they are in a foreign environment. In 2008, the renown coffee chain Starbucks discovered this when over 10,000 employees met in New Orleans for a leadership conference. CEO Howard Schultz noted that although such a meeting was costly, the different location inspired and motivated employees, making it well worth the cost.
2. Emotions are contagious
Much like when you share a good laugh with a close friend, positive emotions spread in large groups of people. This process is called ‘emotional contagion,’ meaning that people in a group mutually influence each other’s attitudes. Simply said, this means that my positivity permeates all those interacting with me. If a speaker is trying to arouse excitement, passion, interest, and enthusiasm in listeners, then face-to-face meetings offer a valuable opportunity to spread these valuable attitudes.
3. Face-to-face meetings make it easier to focus
With the age of technology came the age of multi-tasking. In one survey, researchers found that during virtual meetings, people felt more compelled to multi-task, like check emails, which impacted their ability to focus on the content of the meeting. During face-to-face meetings, there is less temptation to multi-task for two reasons. First, people don’t feel that they could get away with multi-tasking as easily in-person. Second, face-to-face meetings are more engaging, which, for many people, eliminates the desire to multi-task altogether.
4. In-person interactions are the best way to build relationships among people
Often times, when companies offer the possibility of virtual meetings, people still choose to attend face-to-face meetings because they offer the chance to network and become part of a community. The business world’s emphasis on networking has resulted in people placing a high value on professional relationships. Virtual meetings don’t offer the after-meeting social gatherings or the same connection that face-to-face meetings do.
5. Face-to-face meetings allow you to build trust and empathize
Face-to-face meetings provide a space to for meeting attendees to bond with one another before, during, and after meetings. This bonding experience fosters feelings of trust and empathy, which are essential in any successful business relationship. While virtual meetings allow people to share a connection with one another, the lack of face-to-face places limits on the amount of connection that can be shared.Overall face-to-face meetings offer a myriad of benefits to businesses and their employees. Next time you turn your webcam on from the convenience of your office, think twice. Of course there are the factors of cost, time and distance. Make sure your organization weighs them wisely. In-person meetings foster invaluable people skills; isn’t that the most important part of business afterall?