Collaboration is important for businesses as it promotes innovation, efficiency, problem-solving, knowledge sharing, decision-making, the list goes on. While virtual meetings have become increasingly popular as a result of remote working, they are not always as effective as in-person meetings when it comes to collaboration. One of the main drawbacks of virtual meetings is the lack of non-verbal cues and face-to-face interactions. In-meetings allow for subtle cues like body language, facial expressions, and eye contact, which all convey valuable information and foster a deeper understanding and connection among participants. The end result? Your business will benefit from more efficient and productive meetings!
Let’s explore the power of in-person meetings for improving collaboration within organisations.
What’s in this article?
- 8 Benefits of in-person meetings
- In-person meetings vs virtual meetings
- 6 Best practices for in-person meetings
- Final thoughts
8 Benefits of in-person meetings
Sometimes, a virtual meeting just won’t cut it! In-person meetings are crucial for collaboration, especially in specific scenarios, such as team-building exercises or ideation sessions. We explore why in-person meetings are so important for collaboration and the situations where an in-person meeting makes more sense than a virtual one.
- Interpret non-verbal cues
- Better communication overall
- Improved ideation
- Limited technological issues
- Limited distractions and better concentration
- Better relationship-building
- Improved participation
- Handle sensitive issues
1. Interpret non-verbal cues
Holding a face-to-face meeting enables participants to interpret non-verbal cues, such as body language and other micro-behaviours like facial expressions and hand gestures. Non-verbal cues are important for gaining a deeper understanding of what participants are talking about, as well as gauging other people’s responses to what you are saying, and changing your tone or topic accordingly.
For example, if you are speaking to a client and they say they are interested in an idea, but their body language says otherwise, you know to pivot the conversation and re-engage them. These types of non-verbal signals could make or break important conversations!
2. Better communication overall
Collaborating via messenger or video calls can be useful for straightforward conversations, however, there’s nothing like face-to-face meetings for clear communication. In addition to non-verbal cues, in-person meetings enable you to express your thoughts and ideas and ask questions more easily, decreasing the risk of misinterpretation.
As such, face-to-face meetings are particularly important for task meetings or when trying to solve complex problems. For example, the daily stand-up when working in an Agile Scrum environment is best done in-person to allow for immediate and direct feedback, while also improving team bonding and promoting higher levels of engagement and accountability.
3. Improved ideation
In-person ideation sessions offer all participants the opportunity to share their thoughts and build on other people’s ideas as well. When face-to-face, it is also easier to identify when someone has finished explaining themselves, so others are more confident to contribute their ideas without interrupting their colleagues. Sessions can also include the use of whiteboard and sticky notes to make the ideation more interactive and fruitful.
4. Limited technical issues
While many of us relied on virtual meetings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, this did not come without technical difficulties. Whether that’s internet connection, screen sharing, camera, or audio issues, virtual meetings are not always the smoothest. One thing’s for sure - when you hold an in-person meeting, everyone can clearly see and hear everything, without the risk of technical difficulties.
5. Limited distractions and better concentration
When participating in a virtual meeting, it can be easy to get distracted by other tasks or messages on your screen. This can lead you to multitask and focus less energy on the conversation, resulting in inefficient meetings and decreased productivity. On the other hand, when in-person, you are in a professional environment that encourages you to give your undivided attention to meetings, therefore, maximising concentration and productivity. You may even find that you are able to drastically reduce the number of minutes spent in meetings each week!
5. Better relationship-building
Meeting colleagues and clients in real life provides a sense of human connection that is hard to replicate online and can help build better relationships. Ultimately, this can help you build stronger bonds with the people you work with, build trust, and work better together as a result.
For example, team building activities are best done in-person to allow colleagues to mingle, get a chance to speak to everyone individually, and not feel pressured by the group environment of a virtual call. This helps individuals build authentic relationships with their teammates and foster a stronger team spirit as a result.
6. Improved participation
Being fully present in meetings is key to getting the most out of them. Face-to-face meetings encourage participants to involve themselves in the conversation and not to hide behind a screen. Virtually, it can be easy to remain on mute or turn off your camera, but when in person, you are physically present and immersed in a discussion. The more people contributing to the conversation and sharing ideas, the better the outcome will be.
7. Handle sensitive issues
When addressing sensitive topics or issues, it can be tempting to do so virtually, however, this is by no means the best way to do so. Having sensitive conversations in-person enables participants to actively listen and show empathy to work through the problem at hand. It is also less likely for feelings to be misinterpreted, due to the non-verbal cues you see in-person. Meeting face-to-face also shows an individual that you really care about them and are willing to put the time and effort into helping them through their problems.
In-person meetings vs virtual meetings
|In-Person Meetings||Virtual Meetings|
|Understanding of non-verbal cues for improved communication||Lack of non-verbal cues which hinders communication|
|Build personal connections and trust||Interruptions from technical issues, such as internet connectivity and audio/video glitches|
|Provide opportunities for spontaneous discussions and quick problem-solving||Participants are prone to distractions or multitasking, leading to reduced productivity|
|Higher levels of engagement and attention from participants||Lacks the same personal connection as in-person meetings|
|Limited interruptions due to technical issues||Limited spontaneity and decreased innovation|
6 Best practices for in-person meetings
When holding an in-person meeting, there are a few things you can do to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible and you get the best possible outcome. Best practices for in-person meetings include:
- Setting an agenda
- Preparing ahead of time
- Inviting the right people
- Allocating the appropriate time
- Engaging with participants
- Assigning next steps
1. Setting an agenda
Setting an agenda can help give the meeting a purpose and keep things on track. It helps participants understand the desired outcome of the meeting and ensure that everything is covered within the allotted time.
2. Preparing ahead of time
Sending out an agenda or brief ahead of time also gives everyone a chance to prepare and come to the meeting with ideas to contribute. This can help minimise the amount of time spent in meetings too.
3. Inviting the right people
When it comes to meetings, the more does not always mean the merrier. You want to be selective with who you invite to ensure that the meeting is productive and not inflated. You may even want to consider inviting some participants to certain parts of the meeting to make it as efficient as possible and to not waste other people’s time.
4. Allocating the appropriate time
Show your colleagues that you value their time and be sure to allocate an appropriate time for your meeting so that everything can be covered, but you are not taking up too much time either. If needed, you can always schedule a follow-up.
5. Engaging with participants
Make sure to ask questions and engage all participants in the meeting so that everyone gets a chance to share their thoughts and feel included. Practising psychological safety company-wide is also a great place to start with this.
6. Assigning next steps
It’s important to assign participants with tasks or next steps at the end of each meeting. It can also be useful to take notes throughout and share these with everyone afterwards for reference.
Taking steps to improve collaboration within your teams will have a knock-on effect for the success of your business, from improved decision-making to creativity and innovation. Ultimately, there’s nothing quite like in-person interactions and encouraging more face-to-face meetings within your organisation will have many benefits, for both business and employee. So, if you’re looking to get the most out of your meetings, it’s time to start promoting in-person collaboration across your company!