By now, we’ve adapted to virtual meetings and remote work routines, but that does not mean an in person meeting lost its value. Read more details below including how to safely have them during the pandemic.
Despite quarantines and harsh restrictions, in person meetings haven’t become a relic of the past. Far from it, it seems like many businesses have come to further recognize and respect the importance of in person meetings as the pandemic rages on, especially for identifying and onboarding new talent, landing important clients, and communicating effectively with team members on critical projects.
There are elements to a conversation that are often lost when communicating through purely virtual means, and try as we might, there is still no good replacement for a face-to-face meeting.
That being said, in person meetings can and should be made limited and more efficient as long as we continue to live in a world with the coronavirus. By leveraging better hygiene concepts, important technologies, and simple meeting rules, we can massively curb the dangers of in person meetings and make them safe, even during a pandemic.
Why In Person Meetings Remain Important in a Pandemic World
Non-verbal cues, expressive faces, and the engagement of being in a physical location with others as opposed to simply being rendered as pixels on a small screen can have a significant impact on the quality and nature of a meeting, whether it’s a brainstorming session between team members or an important client.
While virtual meetings have helped thousands of businesses continue to function and even remain productive in the midst of a historic health crisis, they have also served to highlight their own distinct limitations, and how face-to-face communication can serve to be more effective at building relationships or simply communicating nuance.
Fewer Things Are Lost in Translation
The first and most immediate benefit to an in person meeting is the little things we tend to miss when confined strictly to a screen. Facial cues and body language, subtle changes in pitch, simple expressions, and the ability to immediately discern or at least ask for context to any and every statement. These things are diminished or even lost in the limited scope of a video conference, much less an email thread, where the only non-verbal forms of expression available to most of us are emojis.
All the things we take for granted in face-to-face communication help to provide a much clearer understanding of what the other person is saying and thinking, and help us avoid miscommunication or awkward misunderstandings, at times fuelled by a lack of provided context, as one party doesn’t want to ask the other to repeat themselves or explain what they meant.
No Lag, Fewer Technical Issues
Another important benefit to an in person meeting is the lack of a technological barrier between persons. Technology can be a barrier, after all. A barrier of entry for those unwilling or struggling to learn how to communicate with new software and technology, and a barrier created by technical issues which can slow or delay important conversations and frustrate both parties.
Audio and video issues, constant lag, connectivity problems, and dropped calls are just a few potential issues that often arise when working with telecommunication tools, and troubleshooting these issues can take precious time on either side of the conversation, and distract from the important points, derailing meetings during critical junctures, or causing important information to get lost amidst technical problems.
In Person Meetings Build Stronger Relationships
It is proven that we tend to build stronger relationships, inspire more trust, and leave longer lasting impressions through in person meetings versus virtual ones. People are still naturally inclined to feel closer and more engaged to someone sitting opposite them at a desk, rather than a person who exists merely on a screen.
Virtual technology is critical at enabling communication across large distances and can serve as the perfect tool to help long-distance teams collaborate and meet with international clients, but there is nothing that can substitute a first-time face-to-face meeting as a means to build trust and create a solid foundation for a strong business relationship.
But rather than simply discuss why in person meetings can help us forge stronger bonds with one another, it’s even more important to discuss how we can afford to host them safely.
Find the Right Venue
This is where a coworking space comes into play. Coworking spaces present themselves as the perfect neutral venue for team members, executives, clients, and managers to meet in a safe environment, collaborate and communicate in a safe and concise manner, and leave.
Coworking spaces are also ideal for the onboarding process, providing the perfect setting to help integrate and guide new hires into finding their place within the company and team hierarchy, before continuing through the coworking space or working remotely, depending on their and the team’s strengths and capacity.
Observe Proper Precautions and Social Distancing Measures
Aside from choosing a safe workspace designed for collaboration, companies and teams can further reduce the risk of infection when meeting in person by picking spaces with private rooms large enough to accommodate everyone attending with the appropriate distance between one another, while mandating masks and always observing safe social distances (including on the way in and out of the room).
Consider Natural Ventilation
The CDC recommends that offices keep their windows open and allow for as much natural air flow within the office as possible (provided the weather and climate permit it). Keeping a window open might seem like a relatively simple measure but could further limit the risk of any potential transmission during a meeting.
Amplify Everyone’s Voices
Studies confirm that raising one’s voice is more likely to transmit the virus – this is simply because the louder we yell, the further our spit droplets travel through the air.
Providing microphones for everyone and renting a room and table that can safely accommodate everyone at the meeting can help a group maintain a safe and reasonable social distance while reducing the droplets in the air.
A relatively simple sound setup with a few speakers in each corner of the room and a mic for each meeting member can eliminate the need for any sort of yelling or screaming to get heard across the room.
Keep Meetings Short and To-The-Point
The coronavirus could be yet another motivator to keep meetings short and concise. Excessively long meetings may defeat the purpose of getting together to organize and have historically been little more than a huge financial drain on productivity.
In person meetings may not be as simple to organize as before, but when leveraged, can provide an opportunity to improve relationships and foster a greater sense of trust and cooperation than through any virtual means, which is critically important for many businesses worried about cohesion and feelings of isolation within team members.