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Corporate Travel and Events

Here’s Why I Always Prefer In-Person Meetings

An executive reflects on how face-to-face interactions build a sense of cultural unity in the workplace.

Something unique happens when people gather together with a shared purpose. People chat about their kids’ soccer games or weekend plans. They begin to develop a sense of camaraderie.

In the workplace, I find it’s easier to focus on my coworkers when we meet in the same room. We put aside our laptops and our phones and look each other in the eye. We notice subtle facial expressions: the gleam of excitement when someone has a new idea, or a grimace when another has misgivings.

Meeting face-to-face builds trust and engenders empathy and respect. Conversations flow more naturally. Brainstorming becomes more productive as people bounce ideas off one another and notice where goals are and are not aligned.

When I worked at USAA, I often facilitated sessions in which employees met directly with the CEO or other top executives. I was impressed by the level of candor at these meetings — from customer service reps to C-suite leaders. It was a powerful experience for executives to hear boots-on-the-ground stories from employees. And it was equally powerful for these employees to feel that the company’s top leaders had really listened to their concerns. Such meetings not only made the company more efficient, they boosted morale.

That’s why we also held monthly calibration and decision meetings. Senior leadership would get together to discuss projects and priorities and to seek feedback from others. These meetings accomplished more than a hundred emails or conference calls ever could.

In this era of rapid change, face-to-face communication has never been more important. We have a dizzying array of options for communication: email, social media, apps, videoconferencing. But none of these are particularly conducive to open dialogue.

Videoconferencing might be the next best thing to meeting in person, but much is lost when we connect through a screen. The energy in the room is different, the conversation is stilted, and it’s hard to read others’ emotions. It’s also often difficult to get feedback, which is essential.

When we listen and respond to the concerns of others, that’s when we get real buy-in. And those kinds of conversations happen best in person.

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