In-Person Meetings vs. Virtual Meetings: Weighing the Pros and Cons
With the advancement of video-conferencing technology and online meeting platforms over the past several years, we have seen a recent trend towards more virtual meetings in the business world.
That trend was further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many organizations – even those that had never considered remote work solutions before – to find ways to collaborate virtually, without the option to meet in person.
As the pandemic continues, some organizations are opting to return to in-person meetings, while others are sticking with virtual meeting solutions.
There are pros and cons to both methods of collaboration, but it’s important to weigh those pros and cons in order to determine which option is most beneficial and advantageous for your business.
Advantages of In-Person Meetings
Meeting in person tends to encourage people to be more focused at the task at hand and on the people presenting and discussing a topic right in front of them physically.
Fewer Technical Difficulties
This is a huge benefit of in-person communication. You won’t be side tracked or distracted by attendees having issues with accessing the meeting, trying to contribute while muted, etc.
There’s just something about in person collaboration that can’t quite be replicated when you’re meeting on a virtual platform.
Aside from avoiding technical difficulties that make communication a challenge, meeting face to face enables communication through body language and tone in ways that virtual meetings do not.
Participants can’t mute themselves or turn off their cameras when they’re sitting at a meeting in person. Awkward silences are much more awkward when sitting face to face. As a result, engagement and participation tend to increase significantly at in-person meetings.
Meeting in person tends to build trust and confidence between the parties collaborating more deeply and effectively than meeting virtually can.
Again, collaboration between people and teams traditionally happened in-person, and a lot of that connection can be lost when people are interacting via computer screens instead. This human connection is a key element of in-person meetings that can’t be replicated virtually.
Disadvantages of In-Person Meetings
Meeting face to face tends to be more time consuming than meeting virtually. If you’re short on time or looking for increased efficiency, meeting in person may not be the way to go.
Scheduling conflicts are often a factor when finding a time to meet face-to-face. They tend to be less of a factor for virtual meetings since they can be attended from anywhere.
Meeting in person requires travel and commuting, which can make scheduling more challenging, and can take up more valuable time for all participants involved.
At this point, many employees find in-person meetings to be a bit more inconvenient to attend, as they require a bit more preparation (since attendance in pajamas is usually frowned upon), travel to the meeting location, and generally a bit more time to participate in as a whole.
Advantages of Virtual Meetings
It’s relatively easy to throw together a virtual meeting at the last minute, which means that teams can collaborate and communicate easily if they have access to a virtual meeting platform.
Virtual meetings are incredibly cost-effective, with the main expense for the company being the (typically minimal) cost to access and use the online meeting platform.
Online meetings are often more efficient than in-person meetings. By eliminating the need to commute to the meeting location, employees can spend more time at work and less time in transit. Plus, most people don’t want to be stuck on a video call for an extended period of time, so conversations may be expedited.
Convenience is one of the major advantages of virtual meetings. They’re easy to access, and can be accessed from anywhere.
Connecting via a virtual meeting means that people in various locations can be included in meetings with ease. Distance and scheduling are less of a factor, enabling more voices to be included in conversations and more perspectives to be involved in decision-making.
Disadvantages of Virtual Meetings
Lack of Human Connection
There’s just something about interacting in person that can’t be replicated when you’re connecting online. This is one of the major downsides of meeting virtually.
These are inevitable, and they’re incredibly distracting and challenging when they happen.
Accessing a virtual meeting from anywhere can be beneficial, but it can also mean that participants are surrounded by distractions as they’re trying to communicate and contribute to collaboration in a meaningful way.
The option to mute gives people the option to decline to participate in meetings, an option they wouldn’t have if they were attending a meeting in person.