Over the past couple of years, with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, there’s been an inevitable shift towards remote online meetings using a variety of software tools like Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom. And although online meetings are better than email, there’s no denying the value of face-to-face meetings. 

Collaborating online can be restrictive – whether you’re communicating via email or teams or zoom call, there are undeniably things you miss out on. While communicating remotely may be convenient, it brings a certain number of challenges. 

Ahead of kicking off a meeting, it’s natural to have a certain degree of small talk, where people can chat amongst themselves and get acquainted. However, it is usually impossible to have small talk amongst attendees in remote meetings, especially if they are ‘meeting’ for the first time. Instead, the inclination is to drive straight into the topic, to facilitate the effectiveness of the meeting. However, this lack of camaraderie can impact the individuals’ contributions to the meeting due to them not feeling comfortable. 

When meeting face-to-face, people can undertake small parallel discussions with one or two people while the main group is also talking. Talking amongst yourselves is obviously impossible to do in a remote environment. The volume for speaking and listening is also the same for everyone, and unless the group is assigned to pre-planned breakout discussion forums, simultaneous talking is impractical. 

The natural structure for meetings leans towards broader topics and general discussions around them. However, minor but equally important topics are often not discussed in remote meetings, requiring further discussions either as a group or between specific individuals. The quality of meeting attendees’ inputs can also be compromised. It may be challenging to understand the appropriate time to talk without interrupting someone, toning down the quality of everyone’s input since it’s hard to introduce facts and opinions at the right time. 

Body language is an important part of how we communicate. However, with remote meetings, one needs to be more sensitive to written and spoken cues, meaning that you need to use other means for identifying emotions and asking whether people are all on board. Additionally, attendees to online meetings often do not engage their videos and/or go onto mute. Therefore, it can be difficult to guarantee if these attendees are actively participating in the meeting or whether they are engaging in other activities. 

Keeping a nice rhythm in meetings can be tricky, but dealing with technical issues simultaneously can make this even more challenging. In addition, any kind of connection loss or lag might significantly break the rhythm and negatively impact the expected results of a meeting. 

Meeting face-to-face establishes stronger relationships and demonstrates that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get to know someone, builds trust, and shows that you value the relationship. It also enables you and your clients/extended team members to showcase your personality, which is an incredibly important part of any business partnership. 

This post was written by Tugela People. They are an exhibitor on the Consulting & Advisory Partner floor of the HRTech247 Partners Hall here.