Five Signs You Need A Face-To-Face Meeting

While video conferencing offers a new alternative to actually getting together in person, sometimes meatspace meetings are the only way to go. We outline five key signs that face-to-face meetings are going to be worth the effort.

Picture by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Getting to meetings can be a hassle, but you need to measure the time spent on the meeting (and the associated travel) against the constant drip-drip-drip of circular emails and unanswered phone calls. My Sydney-based boss recently flew to Hong Kong for a meeting, and despite the time involved, he found it much more productive than emails and phone calls would have been.

Just as people often find that phone calls can resolve issues faster than emails, actually meeting can improve on phone calls, especially when multiple people are involved. Your own situation will vary, but here are five clear indicators that it might be time to get everyone in a room together.

1. When more than six people are involved

For a discussion between two people, email can be fine. For two to five, a conference call is also a possibility. But when the numbers rise above that, phone protocol becomes too complicated and the email thread becomes too messy. At that stage, direct in-person communication makes more sense.

2. When the email thread has become circular

You know the scenario: there's a complex email thread involving multiple people, extra involved parties get added, and after a while you're either re-explaining the first point made in the mail or going around in circles with nothing being resolved. At that point, getting everyone together will be faster and more efficient, and lower the risk of tempers flaring over minutiae.

3. When multiple time zones are involved

It's hard enough getting things done quickly between Sydney and Perth. Add in another time zone and someone is going to be seriously disrupting their schedule. If there's a major list of items to work through, all being in one place can lead to faster resolutions.

4. When you're dealing with unfamiliar cultures

It's a commonplace that some cultures value personal contact in business. We're frequently told that in-person dealings are essential when dealing with China, for example. But the principle holds for virtually any culture where you don't already know the business rules: the chances of messing up are much greater outside a face-to-face environment. That doesn't mean you won't need to do your research beforehand, but it does minimise the odds of misunderstandings.

5. When connectivity options are limited

If the people you're dealing with don't have broadband, video conferencing will be a non-starter and even email can be fraught. You won't want to jump on a plane to remote locations every single time, but for major deals it can definitely pay off.

What triggers do you watch for that indicate a meeting makes more sense? Tell us in the comments.


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