5 benefits of in-person meetings and how to have them post-lockdown
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual meetings have become the norm for businesses everywhere. Tools such as Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams enable the distributed workforce to connect for a weekly catch-up or brainstorm with a client.
Despite the convenience of virtual meetings, however, they have their limitations. Interacting only as faces on a camera screen can reduce the impact and expressiveness of what they say. Simultaneously, many might get distracted by social media or emails, while other people talk at a video conference.
Faulty connections and time zone differences — although not applicable to all — continue to be the annoyances they were pre-COVID. Clearly, in-person meetings are effective in ways that virtual meetings cannot be.
Here is a quick guide to the advantages of meeting face-to-face and how to do it safely:
Benefits of in-person meetings
1. Clear communication
Discerning the tone of someone you are connecting only via emails or e-messaging with can be challenging. Things like exclamation marks, the use of caps lock, one-line responses and emojis can be interpreted in multiple ways, mainly when communicating across different cultures.
Videoconferencing is only slightly better, as facial cues and body language cannot be read. When meeting in-person, these ambiguities go away as both parties can pick up verbal and non-verbal cues on how the other is feeling about the conversation.
2. Fewer interruptions
Virtual meetings almost inevitably involve lags in connection, making it hard for participants to speak without interrupting someone. While some video conferencing tools have tried to combat this with a ‘raise hand’ feature, these are not always accurate and can be overlooked by the meeting host.
All of this makes it hard for conversations to flow smoothly, especially if participants with anxiety might not wish to interrupt anyone. These problems get resolved with in-person meetings where bodily cues can indicate when someone wishes to speak, and everyone can get a turn.
3. Stronger relationships
Eight four per cent of executives prefer in-person meetings as they allow for more meaningful relationships to be built. When meeting face-to-face, people also have the space to talk about more everyday things, which may be inappropriate in a virtual meeting.
Informal chat can help people be more comfortable with each other, which can help the meeting flow more smoothly. Plus, scheduling an in-person meeting shows the other person that you choose to make time for them, which increases their respect for you.
4. Fosters trust
Emails, particularly unsolicited ones, are often viewed as inherently trustworthy and get flagged as spam. The same goes for LinkedIn messages or other direct messaging platforms. By contrast, a face-to-face meeting builds the necessary trust to start a new business relationship on the right terms.
5. Attentive participation
People’s attention will inevitably wander during virtual meetings, for example, if introverted people silently process what the more extroverted people are saying. An in-person team meeting allows you to make sure that everyone is contributing at least once.
How to resume having in-person meetings
While the world slowly moves back to physical interactions after the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing rules and health considerations will still be very much a reality. Collaborating effectively under these circumstances calls for a little extra care.
The UK may take longer than usual to limp back to normality, but all hope is not lost. Whenever lockdown3 gets lifted, here is how to resume having in-person meetings safely while still getting work done:
1. Avoid busy meeting times
To help everyone travel safely, avoid keeping meetings during typical rush hours when roads and public transport may be crowded. Try and schedule them so that they start a few minutes past the hour.
2. Space out the seating
Ensure there is a six-foot distance between every chair by removing alternate chairs and arranging them in a zig-zag position.
3. Provide everyone with masks
While everyone will likely already be wearing one, keeping a single-use mask on each chair clarifies that the meeting is a ‘masks on’ setup. If you plan to work in any coworking space, wearing a mask is compulsory.
4. Open windows
CDC research shows that COVID-19 spreads more rapidly indoors, mainly because there is no natural airflow. Opening a window, therefore, lets fresh air circulate and reduces the risk of infection. If opening a window is not feasible where you are, talk to your building manager about how to use the air-conditioning system most effectively.
5. Provide desk microphones
Owing to social distancing, it may be hard for people seated far away from each other to be audible, and desk microphones can help with this. Having mics on hand also eliminates the need to shout, which strains people’s voices and could even increase the chance of contracting Coronavirus. Remember to clean it before each new person takes the mic though.
6. Keep meetings short
Share the meeting agenda in advance to know exactly what needs to be discussed, and keep steering the conversation back to the topic at hand if people get distracted. Conclude with clear action points on what needs to be done and always try to wrap up in under half an hour.
7. Avoid food and drink
Shared drinks and snacks can increase the risk of spreading infection, so request everyone to bring their coffee and keep meetings short enough that no one feels the need for a snack. Otherwise, choose a coworking space that guarantees clean and modern amenities.
8. Share screens with meeting softwarE
Have a projector hung up at the front of the meeting room and share the meeting screen on it. If projectors are not available, share the screen on everyone’s laptops with software such as Google Meet or Zoom. This is also helpful for those attending virtually because of reduced meeting-room capacity.
Host your meetings in coworking spaces
Traditional meeting rooms may not be large enough to host everyone safely, while coffee shops tend to be too noisy (and unsafe) to work productively in. Renting a dedicated coworking space allows you to accommodate everyone comfortably and gives you easy access to all the facilities you need to have a great meeting.
If your team lives near Bromsgrove area, then Triassic Hub is a perfect choice. Coworking here means you do not want to incur the costs of running an office on a long-term basis but can still work as a team in a clean, sanitised environment. Check out hot desks and meeting rooms today!
As you continue to move forward with hosting your event in-person, here are a few recommendations on how you can prepare for event safety.
A recent survey from a company that provides employee assistance programs as well as resources and reports on behavioural health, found that around 59 percent of all employees describe themselves as “highly stressed.”
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