The importance of face-to-face meetings has been a long-understood reality in business, even if it isn’t always easy to quantify. Deals and sales get made, relationships get created (or nurtured), business breakthroughs occur, and morale shoots up – all when people get face to face.
Of course, the pandemic changed things – at least temporarily. Suddenly, nearly everyone was forced to figure out a world without face-to-face meetings. And while it wasn’t always pretty, business kept on getting done. Phone calls and video chats took the place of in-person interactions, and (outside those industries hit hardest by the shutdowns) business kept moving.
As the world starts to move forward, looking for what exactly our new normal will look like once the worst of the pandemic passes, there are plenty of questions about the future of face-to-face. Leaders are asking these questions on multiple levels, too: small team-based meetings in the office, larger division- or company-wide events, and large trade events, too. If the world has gotten by without them this long, is it worth the investment to bring them back?
At Bluewater, we believe the answer is clear: face-to-face still matters, and in-person meetings continue to play a crucial role. These things are already returning and will continue to do so. Yes, some elements might change in the medium and long term, but the value (both measurable and intangible) is clear. And it can’t be fully replicated over Slack or Zoom.
Benefits of In-Person
Why are we so confident that in-person, face-to-face meetings will return? Aside from the fact that they’re already starting to, the numerous observable benefits are things businesses don’t want to live without.
Collaboration, Synergy, Brainstorming: More Than Buzzwords
Both internally and externally, there are many forms of interaction that rely on chemistry, reading body language, posture, and verbal cues. These things just don’t translate into digital mediums. For teams that rely on collaboration or brainstorming to solve complex problems, there’s a kind of next-level synergistic effect when people are in a room together.
Networking and Sales
Thinking more in terms of external efforts, both networking and sales also benefit greatly from in-person touches. It’s not that these things can’t happen online (LinkedIn exists for a reason). But there’s just something electric about the in-person event or meeting that seems to foster longer-lasting connections and stronger sales.
Joy and Morale
Another contribution in-person makes is a boost to overall morale and even joy in employees, peers, and clients alike. Before the pandemic, people would often complain or joke about meetings that could’ve been an email. But after a year and a half of Zoom fatigue, we don’t think that joke is going to get much traction. People are ready to see each other — and to be seen (and heard) in real life.
A Return to In Person, But with Changes
While we’re confident that in-person is coming back, we also know there will be changes. Not everything that ever happened in person was truly valuable, and public sentiment about safety, distance, crowds, and cleanliness is likely to see long-term changes even once Covid is truly in the rear-view.
Deeper Thinking About What Makes a Meeting Successful
We didn’t think of meetings as inherently risky in the past. That may be different moving forward. And if we’re conscious of the ever-present risk of bringing groups together, we’ll think deeper about what makes a meeting worth having, as well as how we’ll know if one has been successful.
Expect meetings to be more intentional, with clearer objectives and more measuring of outcomes. Travel for internal meetings may not bounce back as quickly as in-person meetings themselves, as well.
Hybrid Is Here to Stay
As larger events begin returning to in-person offerings, expect hybrid options to stay (and get the infrastructure in place now to do these well). Not everyone will be equally comfortable returning to large venues, and some who could not travel may well still pay to attend virtually. Hybrid offers the best of both worlds (when executed properly, that is).
Reimagining of Meeting Spaces
From small conference rooms and huddle spaces to larger meeting rooms and even metropolitan event spaces, the pandemic is causing a reimagining of meeting spaces. There are numerous questions along these lines:
- Can spaces be set up in a way that allows for appropriate distancing?
- Are those spaces flexible enough to continue to be practical once distancing concerns fade away?
- Are ventilation systems appropriate for exchanging air by pandemic standards?
Returning to In-Person Requires Changes. Bluewater Can Help.
As you continue planning the return to face to face in various facets of your business, you may well encounter the need for changes. Do your on-site meeting spaces need reimagining? Are you prepared to host your next hybrid event?
In these areas and others, Bluewater’s experienced team can take your business where it needs to go. Reach out for a free consult to see what Bluewater can do for you.