Before the invention of webcams, if you wanted to have a face-to-face meeting with people outside of your office you had no choice but to travel to meet each other. This way of meeting is inefficient, and frankly unnecessary, these days.
It's very expensive, especially if you need to meet with people located interstate or overseas, and it takes up valuable time which could be spent on more important things. This results in lost productivity - something that no business can really afford these days. So while there is definitely a place for face-to-face meetings in the digital age, there's a much more effective way of conducting them now. A face-to-face meeting is no longer the same thing as an in-person meeting.
So what are the pros and cons of these different types of meetings?
An in-person meeting requires you and your meeting participants to be in the same place at the same time. In today's busy world, this is an increasingly difficult feat to achieve. There are also some major disadvantages to meeting this way.
- If you need to be able to touch things, such as product samples, then an in-person meeting is probably the best option for you.
- In-person meetings can be more dynamic than virtual meetings. For example, you can easily break up into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas.
- At the very beginning of a business relationship, it can be beneficial to meet in person in order to create a strong basis for an ongoing relationship. However, this is only necessary for the first meeting.
- It takes up a lot of time. All participants have to be in the same place at once, which may require you to travel interstate or overseas. Even a one-hour meeting interstate could take up most of the day once travel is factored in, which is a very inefficient use of company time.
- It's not cost-effective. If you need to attend an in-person meeting overseas, this would involve booking flights, accommodation, transport and maybe even a venue in which to host the meeting. These costs can be prohibitive and some companies have even had to implement complete travel bans as a result.
- It's outdated. Digital technologies are constantly improving and providing easier ways of meeting and doing business. Companies who are still sending people to in-person meetings are lagging behind on business trends.
Face-to-face meetings are easily conducted by using web conferencing and webcams, without having to travel to meet in person. Everybody can see each other from wherever they are, whether that's their office, home or anywhere else they happen to be! The traditional advantages of meeting in person can be achieved much more easily with a web conference.
- It increases trust. Our body language influences how our words are interpreted by others. If your body language matches your words, this increases trust, rapport and understanding with your meeting guests. Using webcams in a web conference means you are able to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. If you can read someone's body language, you'll have access to a wealth of additional information that can't be transmitted through a simple telephone meeting.
- It increases engagement. Having a visual connection with your meeting participants adds an element of accountability for each person. This will discourage busy attendees from attempting to multitask, which can happen if the meeting is being conducted over phones.
- It increases productivity. Web conferences allow you to share screens so you can collaborate easily on projects and documents even when you're separated by thousands of kilometres. The time saved from travelling to the meeting can instead be used to achieve your goals and making decisions more efficiently.
- Some web conferencing providers like to lock you in to monthly subscriptions, regardless of how much you may use the service. Just make sure you choose a provider who offers you pay-as-you-go rates rather than a monthly fee or subscription.
- If you just need to speak with your meeting guests without any visual link, an audio conference is a simple way of collaborating simply and efficiently. All you need is a landline or mobile phone and an account with an audio conferencing provider.
- Audio conferences give participants increased objectivity because they're not distracted by the visual feed provided by the webcams of meeting participants. This allows them to think more logically about the points being put forward during the discussion and perhaps come to an agreement or understanding sooner.
- Many conferencing providers don't offer their service over dedicated telephone lines, leading to call drop-outs and bad quality conferences. When deciding on which audio conferencing provider to use, make sure you choose one which owns their own infrastructure and can guarantee you service over dedicated phone lines.
As you can see, there are some convincing disadvantages to meeting in person. There's no reason to waste company resources on travelling to meetings when meeting via audio and web conferencing will save you both time and money while helping you be more productive and efficient.