Perspective

Why face-to-face meetings will always be essential?

The world has changed significantly since the global pandemic began. Everything has changed, from economic realities to new social rules and habits, especially in the world of business. Online meetings have become the norm and are a key part of the morning routine, as much as that first coffee of the day. Whether this virtual way of doing business will last is a source of serious discussion with a list of arguments here and there.

There is no doubt that humans are social beings. Nick Morgan from Forbes says “it’s a mistake to think that most humans prefer the solitary life that so much of modern life imposes on us”. In fact, people are so social that being isolated from others, even for a short period of time, can cause serious damage not only mentally but physically.

The scientific evidence

In 2019, Richard J. Smeyne, professor of neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University, conducted experiments with mice to see how isolation affects their brain. Here is an interesting result: аfter a month of isolation, the neurons in the sensory and motor parts of the mice’s brains shrank by 20%. Moreover, the shrinkage stayed steady even after 3 months in isolation. 

These findings are significant for revealing how solitary confinement causes physical damage to the brain. Different forms of isolation can give roots to measurable changes in the brain. “It alters our neurons, changes our brain’s chemistry, and reduces the complexity of our brains in key areas,” says Dr. Smeyne. This explains why people felt so much discomfort being isolated during the pandemic. Due to the lockdown people’s brains experienced physical changes.

This experiment shows the noteworthy importance of offline meetings. Moreover, there are other advantages to consider.

The benefits of offline meetings

Building relationships: People generally prefer face-to-face meetings as they are essential for long term business relationships. It can help demonstrate that you care about a client particularly, by making the effort to meet them, take care of appearance, and show you are willing to spend time to do so.

Bond: Face to face conversations facilitate better relationships between people, as they have a more personal relationship and sense of closeness. Humans are psychologically disposed to meeting in person, and it is especially helpful at the beginning of the relationship.

Loyalty and trust: Customers with an emotional relationship towards a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will be more likely to recommend the brand to others. People are more likely to trust you when they know you in person and have established that bond.

Clearer communication: Humans communicate not just through words. Body language is vital and this is lost in virtual meetings. Not to mention slow connections, interruptions, software glitches, and time spent setting up can really get into the way of clear and proper communication.

Productivity: While no one is denying there can be meetings that are a waste of time, a properly structured and necessary meeting in person can be far more productive.

However, online meetings have a vast amount of advantages as well.

The benefits of online meetings

Mobility: Technological advances have made it possible for people, regardless of where they are, to connect without leaving their house (or bed!). It gives the possibility to meet more people who may have other obstacles at home preventing them from leaving (a sick child for example) or getting on their way to the office (traffic, weather, etc).

No travel: A related point to the former, there is no need to physically have everyone together or even close to each other. Employees can be anywhere, not dependent on traffic, buses, trains, planes, and communicate in a better mood as a result.

Globalization: This lack of a need to be in the same room, city, or country means a company can be truly global. It can bring together staff and clients from anywhere and opens up access to get the best from new labor markets, and a potential worker isn’t limited to applying in his location for work anymore, nor is a client.

Ecology: Without the traffic and plane emissions, there is an environmental benefit to keeping people at home.

Cost: Virtual meetings are very cheap, requiring just an internet connection and software, which ranges from free to a few hundred dollars for the entire company. Compared to renting offices in city centers, with facilities, hardware, support staff, and so on, the cost difference is immense.

And another huge benefit, which kind of sums up everything said: it is possible to meet online under any circumstances. Pandemic, war, climate change, earthquake, God forbid, whatever. You can conduct a meeting online no matter what. But at the same time, offline meetings have even more advantages.

Interesting facts about meetings

  1.  68% of entry-level professionals value face-to-face networking more than online
  2.  Forbes says that 9 in 10 people say small meetings are their favorite communication method
  3. According to research posted by Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, “For every dollar companies invest in business travel, they receive a value of $12.50. It would take three years to recover lost profits.”
  4. 9/10 millennials consider going to the office not necessary
  5.  84% of people prefer remote meetings
  6.  In-person meetings generate approximately 13.36 ideas whereas remote meetings have a lower score: 10.43 ideas
  7.  Almost 100% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships

Conclusion

Although online meetings are great and have a handful of advantages, it is impossible to have proper business processes without offline communication. So for those who worry about Global Mobility being redundant after 2020, it’s not necessary, as people will always need to travel and meet people face to face, even if it’s a little less than before.

Companies, of course, should be adapted to do both scenarios. For work with employees, for global access, online meetings are beneficial, but for clients, it is much better to have face to face contact, which is why we should expect to see those types of meetings stay around.