When should you schedule a face to face, versus a virtual meeting?

 In Delivery, Entrepreneur, Environment, Meetings, News, The Winning Voice, Video, Virtual communication, Voice

As the Australia emerges from lockdown in the next few months, and progresses into a mostly vaccinated country in 2022, all of us will be needing to decide when it is best to schedule a face to face meeting, versus a virtual meeting.

Below is a playbook to use for deciding which meeting type to schedule.

Overarching view

You’ll never replace the richness and vital feeling tone of a face to face meeting. (No matter what the CEO of Zoom says).

As many of you know, when we exclusively communicate virtually over extended time periods, we become distant from people. We know people less well. Trust is often eroded.

Most of the time virtual meetings are better when you have already met with someone face to face.

Adapt the playbook to your organisation, culture, environment, geography etc. I’m sure you have additional ideas and views. (On reflection my Virtual meeting points seem light on).  Please send your ideas and views to me so I can revise the playbook.

When to schedule a FACE TO FACE meeting++

– First meetings with prospective clients within your own city.

– Certain first meetings that require air travel, with A and B class clients.

Pitch meetings with new and existing clients.

– Thank you and appreciation events for clients.

– Orientation of new team members.

– Important board and leadership team meetings.

– All-Hands meetings, in particular when celebrating a significant accomplishment.

– Important candidate interviews.

– Making a team member redundant.

(++ Research company Gartner maintains that by 2024 only 25% of meetings will take place face to face).

When to schedule a VIRTUAL meeting*

– When geographic distance or financial costs are prohibitive.

– Short internal meetings where there are no critical decisions to be made.

(* The fit-out of new offices is trending toward including ‘telephone booth’ cubicles in office floor design. Rather than having a hybrid meeting with some participants physically present in a meeting room and some participants participating virtually, the cubicles allow each person who is physically at the office to go into a cubicle and log into the meeting ‘virtually’. With this set-up all participants have the same meeting experience).

How to handle and when to schedule a HYBRID meeting?

(ie. some participants physically present in a room and some participants virtual).

It is inevitable that most organisations will have hybrid meetings. This type of meeting situation is the most challenging one in which to conduct a productive meeting. Here are some beginning thoughts on conducting these type of meetings.

– For hybrid meetings, make an investment to have a high standard of audio and video technology quality and of lighting quality.

– Overall, it is crucial that the chairperson makes an extra effort to make virtual participants feel included in these meetings. One thing the chairperson could do –  for better virtual participant inclusion – is to write the virtual participants’ names on a sheet of paper and on purpose ask for their opinion on matters of the discussion, making a tick next to their name for every contribution. The chair might aim to have at least three ticks next to each virtual participant’s name by the end of the meeting.

– To lessen the feeling of exclusion for virtual participants, the chair should mention to physically present participants, the exclusionary nature of  side conversations, and ask them to refrain from having them. In effect, the policy could be, whatever comments are made, should be clearly heard by all participants.

– Optimally all virtual participants would be displayed on large screens in life-like proportions and these screens would be placed on the walls around the room where all participants (physically present and virtual) can see each other throughout the meeting. Obviously this meeting room setup has not occurred for the majority of organisations.

– Unfortunately with the current technology in Teams and Zoom meetings, virtual participant images are presented in small rectangles. Unconsciously when a person is displayed in this way we can minimise their importance in a meeting. That is why the chairperson needs to find ways to counteract virtual participants being, and feeling diminished.

– Schedule hybrid meetings when you want to reach the greatest number of participants.

How do you combine a sequence of face to face and virtual meeting for the best results?

Consider alternating face to face and virtual meetings. Introduce an element of unpredictability in scheduling. For example, if you have your leadership team meetings weekly, consider in a block of four meetings, to have three virtual meetings and one face to face meeting.

Other ideas

Use and combine other communication mediums into the mix of face to face and virtual meetings such as phone and text messages.

To determine the best meeting medium, consider the type of meeting you’ll be having and the type of of person you’re meeting with.

For internal meetings, seek the views of your team members in deciding on the best meeting medium(s).

For client meetings, consider or ask what medium the client prefers. They might want a first meeting to be conducted virtually followed by a mixture of virtual and face to face meetings, or visa versa.


Implementation idea:

#1 Reflect on the above suggestions.

#2 Over the next seven days trial one or two ideas to see if they have value.

#3 Over time, compile your own playbook for scheduling face to face and virtual meetings.

p.s. Here is a valuable article I urge you to read titled Virtual meetings during COVID 19 pandemic: The good, the bad and the ugly.

Here’s a telling point from the article.

 ‘Good video set up is the new business suit.’

p.p.s. I have developed a one page PDF titled Virtual Communication 101. Please contact me if you want me to email it to you.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to Behind the Voice

Regular insights, guidance and commentary on how communication influences business and the world around us

Thank you for subscribing