2020 is the year of the rat according to the Chinese zodiac. However, for most of us working through the coronavirus pandemic, it has been the year of virtual meetings. With so many employers and employees now holding meetings via Zoom, Skype, Discord, and Facetime, it has everyone wondering: are face to face meetings even worth anymore? The short answer: Yes. Here’s why.

Face to face meetings are still important for every employer wanting to build and keep trust with employees. Being in the same room gives employees and management a sense of team and working towards the “shared mission” of the company, says The Washington Post[1]. Leaders show their team that they are there to engage and listen while building trust with employees in a shared space, at the same table working together. The difference between business conversations, and relationships being built is “only when people spend time talking about things that matter to them, whether that’s a particular innovation, their favourite sports team or recipe[2]”. While video apps can offer fun face filters and effects, true connection is built through physical presence that is made around tables.

Meetings aren’t just for teams: it’s where hands shake and business are built. Building business relationships is through connecting and meeting with people, not intangible corporations. It’s difficult to replicate that same empathy and attentive presence via video, whereas meeting rooms are a shared space. The presence of you and your team mean that the deals, or mergers you are discussing with business partners is worth your time and effort. Also, when the meeting calls for technology to work you want to be in the space where it’s seamless.

Not only do we maintain these relationships with words but with the nuances of nonverbal cues: gestures, eye contact, body language, appearance. It’s easy to put a business shirt on and wear track-pants under the desk while at home using video conferencing. Professionalism and wearing the appropriate outfit in a meeting means you care about your presentation and how you represent your organisation. When you can see your audience you know if they’re interested, upset, apathetic, or nervous. If everyone is laid back in their chair and smiling, you’re doing well; if eyes are surreptitiously looking at the clock and the door then you know that they are counting down the seconds until you stop talking. In a meeting you pick up on the nonverbal of your audience and can change the energy, redirect attention, and gain back control.  Our faces and body language show our emotions and those subtleties can’t be achieved through a webcam.

Web conferencing has become a saving grace in 2020 and will no doubt be a new normal for businesses. However, business is about people and we connect with people much more at the table than through the black mirror.

Written by Jessica Hausheer

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/brand-connect/hilton/the-science-of-being-there/

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/brand-connect/hilton/the-science-of-being-there/