Everyone hates meetings, right? You either have to sit in a stuffy room listening to information that has little or no relevance to your work, or you’re stuck in the car or on a train heading to see a client who won’t speak to you over the phone. You’ve got too much else to do and it’s all a massive waste of time.
Well, maybe not. Whilst meetings can be counterproductive if they lack focus there are times when face to face communication can be hugely beneficial. Since the financial crisis the idea of eliminating meetings altogether has become much more popular; phone calls and emails are considerably cheaper, after all. However, this underestimates the role that meeting in person can play in building trust and allowing emotional intelligence to play a part in client relationships and your dealings with colleagues.
The problem with remote communication
Technology enables us to do business with people all over the world without massive financial outlay, but it carries its own set of risks. Even the clearest written communication can be open to misinterpretation. Whilst a telephone conversation will give you vocal cues it’s estimated that 93% of our comprehension of any given communication is based on body language alone. Even on Skype you’re just a head.
It’s a powerful thing to be able to look someone in the eye and tell them what you think. You might be able to flannel and evade the subject in an email but if you do it in person the façade is much more likely to crumble.
Back when I was a solicitor a lot of clients would ask me to go and see them on site. It wasn’t always possible to justify the expense, but when I did travel the results were incredible. My visits would usually be to investigate an accident and to advise on whether the injured person should be compensated or not, so these were often highly emotive situations. Once a client knew that I had seen their premises and how they worked they were much more likely to accept my advice if I recommended a pay-out. Equally, I could be confident that I had the information I needed and not the edited version.
This principle also applies when dealing with employees. Routine communications via email are fine, but if you’re going through a process of change, dealing with grievances or any other emotive issues, meeting in person allows you to show that you’re taking this seriously.
How to have good meetings
Focus. What is the meeting for? What are you trying to achieve? If you have a clear plan and can send out any essential information in advance you’re much more likely to achieve the desired result.
The Agile software development system also advocates having a stand up meeting at the beginning of each day. Each team member gives a brief report, making them accountable to the rest of the team. The fact that everyone’s standing up gives the meeting greater energy so new tasks can be allocated quickly before everyone gets on with their day.
Have you given meetings the heave-ho? Or do you think they’re evolving? Drop a comment below!
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