Online Meetings Save Money, Cost Socially, Impact Your Bottom Line
Successful businesses are built on successful relationships.
The challenge in contemporary times, in light of meeting restrictions and financial loss, is deciding how we can most effectively create and cultivate those relationships.
Given the technology currently available, can we afford to cut costs by meeting online?
Or, do the overall, long-term social costs outweigh any financial gain?
Saving Money on Travel Might Cost You Business
A study published by Forbes in its Insights section over a decade ago surveyed 760 business executives, revealing some significant truths remaining evident today.
Even when faced with dwindling travel budgets, the consensus was that face-to-face meetings are more than preferable, they are necessary to cultivate deeper, more profitable bonds with both business partners and clients.
From an internal perspective, they also agreed that bonding in-house means in-person: they believe that face to face meetings are best for maintaining productive relationships with co-workers.
Most people feel the same way today — despite modern advances in online meeting technology. The important question, as it relates to opportunities for business development, is why.
Here are three reasons:
1.) Bonding Occurs on Breaks
In a professional setting, the Forbes article notes that meeting "down" time is time well spent bonding with colleagues and clients.
We do the same thing today.
The majority of in-person meetings include at least continental breakfast and coffee service. These periodic breaks, built into the agenda, afford more than physical sustenance; they allow us to nurture interpersonal bonds as well.
Foexample, on Zoom, companies are cutting costs of conference rooms and catering, but at the expense of connection and conversation. Unlike the "meet and greet"/ mingling periods naturally built in to in-person meetings, there is no break time in a Zoom room.
Sure, hosts can open a zoom room early, but good luck forming personal connections in front of a group of people — many who might be total strangers, depending on the size and scope of your meeting.
Additionally, on a virtual platform, there are no side conversations or meaningful opportunities to dialog one-on-one with others, which can be frustrating when in a virtual meeting with others you would love to meet in real life.
Even breakout rooms usually do not facilitate one-on-one conversations.
Sure, there is the chat-box, but half of the participants do not know it’s there or are too busy multitasking to use it. Not to mention the fact that many hosts disable it all together to ensure full attention is paid to the program and speakers.
2.) Why We Shouldn't Discount the Significance of Small Talk
We recognize the value of conversation content as well. Because everyone knows, not all business conversation is about business.
Rene Shimada Siegel in INC. aptly writes in "5 Reasons You Need to Meet in Person," and captures a concept we can all relate to as a crucial component of in-person meetings: the value of what Siegel refers to as "not-so-small talk."
Siegel notes that in contrast to business conversations, which focus on problem solving, business relationships are forged through getting to know one another — which is more easily done in person.
Also, as a practical matter, in terms of the topics that come up during business meeting mingling, we acknowledge the difference between substantive and social, but which is more rewarding interpersonally?
As soon as you identify common ground, sharing memories and stories will outshine talking shop any day.
Ironically, it is often these light conversations that produce strong, business relationships.
3.) Let's Discuss Divided Attention: Can We Overcome It?
Despite our best intentions, it is virtually (no pun intended) impossible to sit stiffly at attention for hours on end staring into your computer camera. Instead, chances are, as time goes by, you will either drift off mentally, or multitask.
Both are undesirable options.
And remember, you are not fooling anyone when you turn off your camera.
Other participants can relate to this temptation to take a breather. Virtual meetings do not lend themselves to breaks; it is hard enough getting everyone logged on correctly to begin with.
The bad news here, is that in all settings, from the personal to the professional, we build chemistry and rapport through attention. And on platforms like Zoom, divided attention is an overstatement; inattention is probably more accurate, and perhaps more likely as long meetings get even longer.
Do Supplement the Virtual With the Personal
Whether you are meeting new colleagues virtually or attending an online professional networking event, consider following up your virtual meeting with a real one. You might not "click" in a Zoom room the way you can in a boardroom, but you can make the most of both venues. Because the best business relationships are personal.
A version of this column was originally published and appears in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of “Live with Dr. Wendy” on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include major news outlets including CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network, and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of Red Flags (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Reading People (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patricks's Reports — More Here.
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