After spending 33 days in hospital and three more months recuperating at home I have become a heavy user of online meetings. Everything from casual conversations between friends and family to business meetings and conferences have been conducted online.
There‘s no doubt that digital communication has opened the door to faster communication and better affordability. However, is it really all it‘s cracked up to be? Is it actually better than meeting face to face? The answer is, ‘it depends‘.
The Advantage of Online Meetings
Digital communication technology offers a range of benefits, though perhaps the most important two go hand in hand ‘" convenience and cost savings. Every business, regardless of size, scope or niche, needs to cut costs and save time. Digital technology like VoIP does just that.
Whether you choose to go with a full VoIP implementation or make use of tools such as tablet computers and free apps like Skype, you‘ll find that online meetings are a great ways to build a sense of community and teamwork within your own business.
VoIP is not without its problems, even in its most robust applications, and is not necessarily ideal for some things. However, it‘s a great tool for team communication and collaboration, particularly when team members are scattered around the country, or around the world. It‘s also useful for in-house meetings and can be far more beneficial than traditional conference calls.
The real benefit of today‘s technology is the ability to use video because so much human communication is nonverbal. Video calls and videoconferences help ensure easy communication and greater accuracy for all involved.
The savings in time and travel costs can also be significant. A large number of businesses now conduct many of their meetings through VoIP solutions simply because they‘re so much more affordable ‘" there‘s no airfare or hotel costs, no meals to pay for and no additional travel arrangements to be made.
When Face to Face Meetings Are Better
When you think of meetings in the physical world, do you equate them with wasted time and higher costs? If so, it might be time to rethink. Face-to-face meetings still offer some advantages that are impossible to get with digital communications.
Meeting someone in person might seem a bit ‘last century‘, but there‘s plenty to be gained by sitting down with someone, shaking their hand and ‘talking shop‘ without the distraction of a screen between the two of you.
Assessment of the other person is simpler and easier in an offline environment. While video communications can show you some of the person‘s physical behaviour, it won‘t capture all of the subtle nuances. For instance, is the person shifting nervously? Is he or she tapping their toe in impatience? Signs of tension, apprehension, boredom or engagement ‘" these are all vital to accurate communication and assessment of the situation, and they‘re really only available by meeting in person.
You‘ll also find that in-person meetings help foster greater productivity in team settings. This is because it‘s easier for individuals to break off from the main group into smaller teams for collaboration on specific items or areas of the agenda that cannot be addressed directly through the larger meeting. Digital communication is good, but is really only ideal when there is a single conversation going on with all attendees of the meeting.
Another advantage is that you can take more time to get to know the other party. In a VoIP meeting, it‘s usually ‘straight to business‘. However, with a face-to-face meeting, you get the opportunity to slow things down and take time to get to know them a bit more personally. That‘s a vital consideration in many situations.
In-person meetings are essential when accurate, immediate personal assessment is needed. If you‘re negotiating a new contract, you need to be able to see their nonverbal communication cues. If you‘re interviewing a new senior staff member, you need to make sure you can assess their character accurately to ensure they‘re competent, have integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. Those qualities can be enormously difficult to assess via digital communication (and impossible in written form).
The bottom line
When it comes down to it, businesses today need both forms of communication. There is no denying the value, convenience and immense savings that can be offered by digital communications. However, there‘s no way to derive all the benefits of a personal meeting through the impersonal digital world. Both types of meetings have a role to play.
Digital communications play an integral role in the modern world, but those roles should be limited to situations where all the parties are well known to each other or when personal assessment of the other party is of low priority.
Personal meetings, on the other hand, are vital when accurately assessing the other party and understanding their nonverbal communication is critical.
It‘s important for any business to have access to a decent digital solution. However, remember, this is not the ideal communication medium for all situations.
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