In “Why Face to Face Meetings Matter,” Professor Richard D. Arvey cites numerous studies to make his case. While there is an obvious need to control costs in the face of almost constant meetings, there will always be situations where the effectiveness of meeting in person outweighs the cost savings of meeting virtually.
Granted, the tools for virtual collaboration have grown leaps and bounds in recent years, but I strongly believe that there are benefits of meeting in person that will NEVER be replaced by technology. As Dr. Arvey says: “Group process and outcomes that require coordination, consensus, timing, persuasion of others, etc are less effectively accomplished using computer mediated communication modalities.” He goes on to cite a study that states there is no substitute for face to face meetings: “When there is a need for the expression of emotions, when tasks require coordination and timing among members’ activities, when one is attempting to persuade others, or with (sic) task requires consensus on issues that are affected by attitudes or values of the group members.”
There is also something to be said for the transfer of energy that happens when people are physically together. Most of the complex business challenges that are best addressed collaboratively require one or more days of people working with each other. There is no way to sustain the focus and the momentum needed to accomplish this effectively in a virtual environment. And as far as I can tell, there is no way that technology will ever solve for this. Technology will enable us to optimize the mundane, information sharing meetings that make up 80% of any business person’s day, and that is a good thing. Hopefully, the cost savings that are realized in making the mundane meetings virtual can be invested in making the critical meetings effective. A key to that will be in ensuring that people can still come together and work collaboratively and effectively.