Career Consulting

3 Reasons Virtual Meetings Will Always Be a Secondary Option

Relationships might be built online but they are solidified in person, whether that be business (think client buyers) or personal (think online dating). That’s on my mind because I just got back from a meeting in Salt Lake City and it made a world of difference. I think I was in town for roughly 16 hours and was asleep in the hotel room for a decent chunk of that. It was kind of funny, because my flight out got delayed to the point that I was checking in for my flight home before I even left the San Jose airport.

A big part of why some folks like virtual meetings isn’t what you think. The official reasoning might be that it saves on travel cost or time wasted migrating between meetings but I know some people who won’t walk next door if there is a webex link in a meeting invite. Some of it might be laziness but I think the more likely culprit is work overload.

They’re too busy.

And they’re too cynical. They’ve sat through so many meetings where they left not knowing why they were even invited they’d rather call-in, tune out, and work on something else while waiting to make sure they don’t get assigned any action items.

The thing is we get so caught up in how busy we are, we sometimes forget to make time for what’s important. For example, when it was first suggested that in order to be productive on this internal project I’m working we all might in person from our various locations, I thought it might be preferred but I had forgotten a couple of key things.

First, you can’t shake a person’s hand over the internet and for the huggers out there, you can’t share an embrace over the internet either. Something about that in-person interaction makes a relationship stronger. That’s not to say you can’t form virtual relationships, but it always amazes me how much the strength of the relationship is enhanced after a single in-person meeting. I’ve seen it time and again from people met on social networks to clients working at international locations where face-to-face encounters are the exception.

Second, most people focus better when in person. Taking a call / virtual meeting from your computer with all sorts of other distractions in front of you puts you in a position where you might think you can multi-task. Spoiler alert: you can’t. You know how I mentioned people trying to avoid action items earlier? Taking this route, you’ll probably embarrass yourself – in that dreaded moment when you get asked a question and have no idea what’s going on that led up to the question or what the question even was.

Lastly, getting personal with people is how you build a deep connection and those types of personal connections usually happen in off-peak times. Grabbing lunch together and talking about something other than work isn’t practical. Grabbing a beverage together while watching NCAA basketball can’t easily be done virtually either.

More in-depth relationships lead to trust and more likeability (hopefully), which leads to more business. Whether you think this is good or bad, it’s absolutely the way the game is played, and you should act accordingly if you want to make the most of it.