Slowly but surely, over recent years, video conferencing has taken greater prominence in the business landscape, replacing the traditional face-to-face meeting. With the onset of the global pandemic, virtual meetings replaced face-to-face interactions entirely, becoming the primary method of communication for businesses worldwide.
As such, many are beginning to see video conferencing as a long-term replacement for face-to-face meetings. However, for some, the virtual can never replace reality. So, how do the two compare? And will there always be a place for both?
Once upon a time, jetting around the world was standard practice for many employees. Racking up the air miles as they dotted from meeting to meeting. However, when compared with video conferencing air travel is excessively expensive: not to mention the severe environmental impact. Therefore, as businesses find their belts tightened, finance departments will cut air travel to reduce overheads, using video conferences as a replacement.
Additionally, rather than an individual having to get on an aeroplane to dart to their next meeting in Chicago, they can simply set up another call. Conferences can be stacked side-by-side, not only saving costs but also improving time efficiency.
Tools of the Trade
One of the incredible benefits of video conferencing is the range of tools available. Virtual whiteboards are more interactive and accessible than the real thing. Screen sharing allows several colleagues to demonstrate their work in a single meeting. Meetings can even be recorded, for those who were unable to attend.
One of the few downsides of virtual meetings is that they must be taken from your home. In the background, people’s homes can be cluttered, or kids and pets can be playing, giving an unprofessional appearance. With virtual background images , you can use green-screen technology to replace your backdrop with an expensive office or serene garden. There are over a hundred different options from which to pick.
The Human Touch
Despite the fantastic flexibility of video conferencing, many people have noticed an impact on human interaction. With face-to-face meetings, participants can build natural connections. They can see each other’s body language, utilise the full range of communication, reducing misunderstandings. Additionally, when face-to-face, distractions are kept to a minimum: it’s much easier to concentrate on a real person, than a distant face on a computer screen.
TV didn’t destroy the radio, nor cars end walking. Previous practices find a way to adapt to the new normal. Face-to-face meetings will become less frequent, however, for important deals or the occasional meet-up, they will still have their place. People need a real connection: that can only come from real-life.
Naturally, during a pandemic, face-to-face interaction comes with one significant downside: infection control. With social distancing guidelines still in effect in many locations, and stringent travel laws between countries or states in effect or a future possibility, travel for face-to-face meetings will continue to be significantly more difficult. For the time being, many physical offices are staying shut, with their employees continuing to work remotely – in some cases indefinitely. Therefore, video conferencing remains the sole options for the time being. If that can flatten the curve, it can only be a good thing.
It’s easy to praise the new as flawless or to decry change in favour of what is known. However, as with all new tools and business practices, there are benefits and downsides. Video conferencing improves efficiency, reduces business cost and has helped keep businesses running despite the pandemic. But there will always be a place for people to meet together, in person.