Are you interested in increasing workplace productivity? Recent studies show that executives spend up to 23 hours per week in meetings. When these meetings don’t feel purposeful or productive, it takes a toll on employees’ performance and happiness.
If your employees are experiencing meeting overload, you’re likely contemplating adding user-based virtual meetings to your company calendar.
But which kind of meeting is most efficient?
Understanding the differences between virtual and in-person meetings can help you choose how to maximize time management and productivity when bringing the team together!
In-Person Meeting: Pros and Cons
For decades, in-person meetings were the only option for most workplaces. Although phone meetings have gained some traction in recent years, cross-talking makes the medium less than ideal.
While video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype have advanced capabilities, in-person meetings were still the default until the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are good reasons why in-person, internal meetings are a staple of most workplaces. While many companies have adapted to the pandemic, in-person meetings are still considered key to business dealings and team building thanks to their unique features.
In-person meetings allow teams to:
- Connect and communicate – While email, messaging, and Slack can help teams coordinate, in-person meetings are the fastest way to get everyone on the same page. When everyone is in a meeting room, there are few distractions. Likewise, it’s an opportunity for all team members to share their progress and challenges.
- Build camaraderie – In-person meetings often include lunch or coffee, along with opportunities to catch up. Meeting participants are free to express themselves with body language, facial expressions, and other forms of nonverbal communication that can help to build comfort, trust, and camaraderie. Some meetings are explicitly devoted to team building.
- Brainstorm – Getting everyone together, free from the distractions of their desks and smartphones, can create the perfect environment for problem solving. While not every brainstorming session results in a solution, many help move the needle.
- Avoid technical glitches – When everyone travels to the same workspace, there’s no chance that dropped phone service, internet outages, or broken webcams will leave team members in the dark.
- Get motivated – Some in-person meetings are solely dedicated to motivation and team building. When confidence lags or hurdles arise, a motivational session can be what boosts employee morale and enhances productivity.
These many positives have made in-person meetings a permanent fixture of the modern workplace. However, as we already noted, excessive meetings can also take a long-term toll on individual employees and the business as a whole.
Potential negatives include:
- Interruptions to the workday – Constant meetings and conference calls can make it difficult for employees to focus on their independent tasks. Many people spawn their best ideas when they have time and space to themselves. Lengthy meetings often require prep and presentations, and constant social interaction may leave some workers searching for bandwidth.
- Required travel – When team members work in different offices and locations, in-person meetings require some form travel, taking further attention away from their other tasks.
- Expense – Between reimbursing travel costs and catering conference roundups, each team meeting can have a hefty price tag.
- Lack of organization and agenda – Shows like The Office satirize the meaninglessness of some meetings. While some meetings are absolutely necessary, directionless meetings can feel like a waste of precious time.
Now, with the advent of new videoconferencing software and remote working capabilities, more workplaces are turning to virtual meetings to solve some of these issues.
User-Based Virtual Meetings: Pros and Cons
A few years ago, managers and companies were skeptical about the value of the “virtual meeting.” Top executives took transnational flights for singular meetings, all thanks to the high premium we put on face-to-face interaction. We’ve long assumed that negotiation, brainstorming, and growth all require in-person interaction.
However, in the past year, companies including Microsoft have seen a 200% increase in the number of minutes spent in virtual meetings.
Part of this was born of necessity, but nonetheless revealed the time and cost-saving potential of virtual meetings.
The clear benefits of virtual meetings include:
- Face-to-face interactions, without the travel – The eye contact and facial expressions in video conferencing provide the same socioemotional benefits to team members, without requiring some to interrupt their workflow with expensive, draining travel.
- Screen sharing features that enable brainstorming – As video conferencing technologies improve, team whiteboards, screen sharing, and other features mimic the boardroom so that employees can collaborate in virtual environments.
- Minimal workday interruptions – By its very nature, a virtual meeting takes place right at participants’ desks. As soon as they close the window, they can return to their regular tasks.
- Cost sharing – When employees work from home, employers may be able to save on the costs of office space, utilities, high-speed internet, and catered meals.
- Eliminates need for note taking – Anyone who calls out sick or has technical difficulties can simply view the meeting’s recording, a setting we recommend you always have on.
However, despite these obvious benefits, there are a few drawbacks to virtual meetings that are worth exploring at length.
Employee Multitasking During Virtual Meetings
One major concern with virtual meetings is that employees won’t actually be present in the meeting—at least not in the ways that matter.
With opportunities to switch off video—especially in large meetings—it’s tempting for employees to roll out of bed, say “Hi” in the group chat or role call, and then spend the rest of the meeting eating breakfast and getting ready for the day.
Studies show that reasons for multitasking are numerous. Employees may:
- Feel they have no choice, because they are overburdened
- See others multitasking and mimic the social norm
- Grow frustrated with a disorganized meeting and find their time better spent elsewhere
Some studies suggest that this is no cause for concern: employees may not actually need to be engaged for every part of a meeting. Remote work allows them to tune out for parts that are irrelevant, maximizing their productivity. As long as they’re not distracting other employees, their seeming disengagement may actually benefit the company.
However, if you want to make 100% sure each team member is fully present, you can look to professional event planners to maximize attendee engagement.
If you’ve tried to organize an online event or lead a virtual meeting, you may be familiar with the learning curve that impacts virtual facilitation. Any of the following problems could arise:
- Difficulty logging in
- Difficulty adjusting screen view to see relevant speakers
- Inability for host and participants to screen share
- Lagging audio or video
- Blurry video or quiet audio
- Internet outages
- Participants booted from the meeting room
- Problems muting/unmuting participants
For these reasons, it’s essential to find technical solutions that support high-quality audio and video. In addition, moderators must amass the technical knowledge to lead successful, engaging meetings.
It’s easier than ever to password protect your meetings and recordings.
However, if you work in an industry where confidentiality is not just expected but legally required, make sure you’re hosting webinars and meetings on a secure network and take additional steps to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations.
When To Hold Each Type of Meeting
Depending on your needs, both in-person and virtual meetings can achieve desired outcomes. Both require you to have a clear understanding of how to set an agenda and how to keep participants onboard throughout the meeting’s duration.
However, there are some situations in which one meeting type simply holds advantages over the other.
Hold in-person meetings:
- To build camaraderie – There’s nothing like face-to-face interaction for building team morale. While video conferencing can introduce awkward pauses and interruptions, in-person meetings allow each person to express their individuality.
- To ensure everyone has all the information – Despite your best efforts, someone may be tuned out or kicked off of a virtual meeting. If 100% attention and attendance is needed, hold your meeting in person.
- To ensure confidentiality – It can be difficult to ensure your project’s privacy when meeting participants may be dialing in from locations with security issues. An open apartment window or an eavesdropper in a hotel business suite could lead to intellectual property loss. In person, your company has more control.
Hold user-based virtual meetings:
- When speed is key – If employees don’t have to travel to the site, it’s easy to set up a meeting on the fly.
- For brief check-ins – Give employees back time in their days by holding brief check-in meetings online. That way, they can easily return to their work.
- To eliminate travel costs – Save on expensive flights and save your employees from jet lag in one fell swoop.
- When there’s no other option – Getting familiar with virtual platforms prepares your team to better utilize the medium when it’s necessary. As we know, events from pandemics to extreme weather may require employees to work from home.
As you experiment, you’ll find the perfect blend of these two effective meeting types, helping to boost productivity and profitability while making your employees feel their time is valued.
Make Virtual Meetings Engaging With Vario
Making the transition from in-person to virtual can be challenging for companies that lack the hardware, software, or technical expertise to facilitate effective virtual meetings.
Are you looking for a partner to support engaging, interactive virtual meetings and conferences? Contact Vario today!
As experts in hybrid and virtual event production, we bring our years of experience to your in-person meetings so that you can maximize efficiency and focus on your long-term growth rather than technical details. We make sure the meeting goes uninterrupted; you ensure it’s productive.
- Harvard Business Review. “Stop the Meeting Madness.” https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness
- Forbes. “5 Dangerous Workplace Habits That Lower Productivity.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/danabrownlee/2019/06/13/5-dangerous-workplace-habits-that-drain-productivity/#732ceab657ae
- Microsoft. “Remote Trend Work Report.” https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2020/04/09/remote-work-trend-report-meetings/
- Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. “Low Engagement As a Deliberate Practice of Remote Participants in Video Meetings.” https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3334480.3383080?casa_token=XbdsXpgEGB0AAAAA:a4Md2nCljZljqWEmgT2Fs2rosieU4dcvZa2wzBNnhrAePEEsiWbStfzu_xuWYds6HVf32vB9ymVk