Face to Face Meetings –
why Zoom will never replace them
The COVID-19 pandemic has got us all rethinking the way we do business. From no longer needing expensive office space (replaced by the home office) to conducting important business meetings via video conferencing technology. One thing we’ve seen here at Gray Dawes Events is our staff’s ability to get to grips with new technologies with very little training and we are hearing the same from our clients. With this apparently seamless adaption, everyone is asking, “Do we still need to face meetings?”
Spoiler alert… the answer is YES!
Body language alone forms an essential part of the overall communication process. We interpret the way people hold themselves and we act on specific non-verbal cues which allows us to react to certain situations. You can’t always achieve that via online meetings.
Face-to-face communication is possible through video conference calls, but we believe that non-verbal communication extends to more than just facial expression; it spans all the senses.
Body Movement and Posture
Whether we’re doing it consciously or subconsciously, our perception of people is influenced by how they carry themselves. None more so than during a meeting, in which we’re either trying to engage with them to influence a decision or impart information to affect their behaviour. While most people act how they would while at work, many people may alter the way they hold themselves at home via video conference compared to a formal meeting room setting. When working from home there are many external factors, such as children and pets, that may distract or influence a person’s posture or demeanour.
Virtual meetings mean that participants have a limited number of non-verbal cues compared to when conducting a meeting in person. For example, someone entering a room and greeting you or important body language such as the position they adopt when facing you.
This difference in setting can lead to participants missing out on the opportunity to build rapport, create relationships or resolve potential issues as a result of not having regular interpersonal communication.
Using our hands to support verbal communication forms an undeniable part of our day-to-day lives. We express ourselves through many gestures such as pointing, waving, a shrug of the shoulders and simply being animated while speaking.
Communicating through a screen can block some hand gestures which may otherwise be observed. When important hand gestures are missed, due to screen sizes, it can lead to people interpreting what you’re saying, and intending, quite differently.
Making or maintaining eye contact during a group virtual meeting or conference is challenging, if not impossible. Some participants may not enable video while otherwise may be working, writing an email or looking down while listening to a speaker. There are many reasons why eye contact through a screen does not come naturally to most of us, yet this visual sense is one of the most essential non-verbal communications we use.
The way in which we look at people relays important non-verbal cues such as respect, dismissal, affection and even disdain. These are all critical communication factors during important business meetings. Many have experienced eye contact as the difference between continuous flow of conversation or a one-sided monologue, without the ability to understand the audience’s response accurately.
We use our voices to deliver our verbal messages, of course. But how we use our voices can be a powerful tool for emphasising meaning. Tone of voice can deliver sarcasm, humour or earnestness in our words. Virtual meetings sometime hinder the tone of voice, inflexion and intonation due to the various technical elements at play. These can be anything from poor microphones and speakers to a bad Wi-Fi signal and even, in some cases, background noises from children and pets.
If you’re trying to negotiate a deal or command the meeting, just imagine how difficult this is if your audience only hears every other word, thanks to poor broadband or a barking dog.
A person conveys information by the amount of space they occupy during a conversation. When someone enters our personal space to communicate a verbal message, we instinctively experience a range of emotions. We can feel intimidated when an assertive person comes too close, for example. Equally, we feel relaxed and supported when both parties occupy an equal amount of space.
Although touching is not something we can actively engage in during the current COVID-19 pandemic, it delivers essential non-verbal cues during the communication process. These non-verbal messages can include anything from a formal handshake to an affectionate hug. It defines roles, influences perception and determines our perceptiveness to specific messages and signals. In simple terms, it tells us where we stand.
Reports show that non-verbal communication can form as much as 93% of all communication. Communicating via virtual channels such a Zoom and Microsoft Teams can mean that many of those messages get lost. We must maintain face-to-face meetings to communicate effectively but appreciate that virtual meetings will continue to have a large role to play in the future.
Talk to us about how to organise safe meetings during the pandemic.
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