Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago · 5 min. reading time · 0 ·

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Is virtual communications revolutionising work or are two heads better than one?

Is virtual communications revolutionising work or are two heads better than one?


There really is no replacement on the value of face-to-face interactions. It breeds human connection, strengthens trust and builds credibility. But traveling to face-to-face meetings may not always be feasible, economical or the best use of time. Communicating over email, text or phone works but often these messages get misinterpreted and the personal connection may be lost. Over 90 percent of how we communicate is through nonverbal gestures and facial expressions and that simply does not translate over asynchronous communication mediums.

As most successful executives and management have said for years, there’s no substitute for the face-to-face meeting. Even with today’s quickly evolving technology, the old cliche of “putting a face to the name” still holds true. In-person interaction fosters positive connections, forges better relationships, and encourages better internal collaboration.

This presents a dilemma for entrepreneurs and executives who are forced to run their businesses, manage their teams or connect with far-flung executives while on the road. Despite all of our technological advances, it is still impossible to physically be in several places at one time.

A video from your CEO, group chatting with colleagues in a different office, and becoming part of the generation of ideas without having to go to endless meetings, but in todays business is this really effective as we are to believe?
In corporate and business life, closed door meetings and endless conversations that never seem to lead to anything positive, Silos, bad organisational structure, bunkers with employees separated by title or geography. Brilliant ideas overlooked because there is no method of communicating them to the people in charge and those people that can make an informed decision. The other issue is remote workers left out of the communication loop, feeling isolated and unmotivated. These are just some of the problems facing organisations today. And they are stifling productivity and innovation.

However, Facebook are looking to revolutionize this with their new product Workplace’ which combines business and personal social media benefits to employees on one platform with such features as News Feed, Groups and Chat. Some of you may remember some time ago I wrote a blog called “Can you merge your business life with your social life?”
These days the technologies that exist to allow most meetings to be held virtually. From conference calls, to web conferencing, and lately even video conferencing, there are many different options to choose from in determining what type of meeting to run.

In addition to saving time online meetings are also more environmental friendly due to the reduction in the carbon footprint resulting from less traveling to and from meetings. However, there are times when in person meetings are vastly preferable to remote meetings and vice versa. Sometimes the two can be used in parallel. MeetingKing, the meeting facilitation and documentation tool, has the distinct advantage of being able to support both online and face to face meetings.

Virtual meetings (also referred to as online meetings or remote meetings) are an excellent option for when distances between participants are very great. These meetings can be more time-efficient because travel time is significantly reduced. These meetings can enhance productivity in your business, especially when MeetingKing is used to prepare the agenda, write the minutes and keep track of tasks. In support of online meetings, MeetingKing can be effectively utilized in combination with Skype, Webex, GotoMeeting, MeetingBurner and other similar tools. The conference login details may be entered into the location field of the meeting invite, so that all participants are aware of how to access the meeting, and can find this information quickly. Another example of all information in one place.


However, there are some situations where online meeting simply will not be the enabler for effective communication and collaboration. In particular, sensitive meetings relating to human resource matters such as grievances, disciplinary action or one-to-one meetings with employees should almost always be held face to face, especially if they involve the sharing of difficult decisions.

In addition, if a meeting involves a presentation or demonstration of any kind, or brainstorming using a physical whiteboard, inviting some participants to a conference call won’t work either. These callers will get lost when they can’t see the props that the other attendees are referring to. In this case, only an in person meeting or at the very minimum, a video conference will suffice.

Body language tells us a lot about what others are thinking. It is a key component of communication. In any situation where it is important to be able to gauge what a person is thinking not just by what they are saying, but also through their body language (yes, sometimes these do not say the same things!) anything other than a face to face meeting may prove to be inadequate.

Even if you have an effectively operating distributed team and run your organization exclusively with remote meetings, an occasional in person meeting is highly recommended. It will foster team spirit and on-line interaction is easier after you have met a person face to face.

Advantages of meetings:
In business organizations meetings are used for a variety of purposes. There are some advantages of meeting which are stated below:
1. Democratic process: Meeting is a democratic process of taking decision. Noone can blame the other for the decision because it is taken in presence of all the members.
2. Improve decision: Because every matter is discussed, pros and cons and nothing is left over unconsidered. Proverb says: ”Two heads are better than one.”
3. Participative management: All the departmental heads and supervisors may sit together for taking decision.
4. Help in co-ordination: Meeting can help for co-coordinating the work as a whole because all the parties or members are presented in the meeting.
5. Covey information to a large gathering: Meeting can convey information for all departments. Besides the presented members exchange their views, idea, opinion and feeling at a large gathering.
6. Others: Provide necessary information to a group of people, report on some incidents or activities, create involvement and interest, formulate policies etc.

Disadvantages of meetings:
There are some limitations and disadvantages of meetings. These limitations and disadvantages are discussed below:
1. Time consuming: Meeting takes much time to take decision. We know that to hold a meeting is very time consuming.
2. Costly: It is too expensive. Because the company has to decorate the conference room, pay the T.A. and D.A. to the members, pay for cards etc.
3. Formalities: There are many formalities to hold on a meeting. Agenda, minutes, regulations are needed for a valid meeting.
4. Difficult to control: Sometimes it becomes very difficult for the speaker or chairman to control over the meeting because proverb says, “Many men, many minds.”

Preconditions of a valid meeting:
A valid meeting should have the following elements:
1. Legal objectives: Any meeting must have legal objectives. Meetings on illegal or unethical purposes cannot be valid in the eye of law.
2. Convened by proper authority: A valid meeting should be convened by the proper authority of the company.
3. Serving proper notice in proper time: Notice of a meeting must be served timely by maintaining rules and regulations of the companies act.
4. Presence of authorized persons: To make a meeting valid person who is entitled to present in a particular type of meeting should be present in the meeting.
5. Presided over by a chairman: A valid meeting should be presided over by a chairman who will be selected by the members.
6. Specific agenda: A detailed agenda should be prepared before the meeting and the meeting should be operated by following agenda.
7. Quorum: Quorum is the minimum number of persons that must be present in the meeting to make it valid.

A final summary of thought, I think there needs to be a balance of video conference, virtual tools, email, social media and collaboration tools for communication and why would you even contemplate using these tech-tools without full intimacy of the relationship in the first instance. What ever happened to picking up the phone? Or meeting people and talking to someone face-to-face? Or do we not have time?

There is an interesting saying: “Two people may be able to solve a problem that an individual cannot.” The origin is from this proverb which was first recorded in John Heywood’s “A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:” Some heades haue taken two headis better then one: But ten heads without wit, I wene as good none. ‘Head’ here means ‘mind’, as opposed to heart or spirit. The notion of two being better than one, although not specifically two heads, was also expressed in the Bible; for example, this chapter from Ecclesiastes, 4:9, in in Miles Coverdale’s Bible, 1535:

The moral to the proverb is:

“Therefore two are better then one, for they may well enioy the profit of their labour.”

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Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago #4

Sounds like a plan Jerry! I would also like to introduce you to my business partner in the US Mark Herbert You will find his thought leadership on the subject very stimulating!

Jerry Fletcher

5 years ago #3

Geoff, There is fodder here for a lengthy discussion. Unfortunately, I an on a deadline and must bow out for at least today. Lets agree to wring this out further at a future date. I'm particularly interested in your comments on design thinking.

Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago #2

Great to have your interaction Jerry, I would like to respond; to be a true leader or not is the question.....It’s no secret that people (especially millennials) disregard and hate meetings. According to the National Statistics Council, 37% of employee time is spent in meetings, and 47% of employees consider too many meetings to be the biggest waste of time during the day–more than social media or email. Design thinking tools and methods tend to explore innovative ideas and creative solutions for organisation problems by shifting the way we think from ordinary methods to new techniques that explore undiscovered creative potentials. Implementing design thinking as part of the strategic planning of the organisation is known to achieve success. However, traditional managers claim that design thinking is a waste of time, especially during a project crisis and under tight deadlines. They prefer to use the usual meetings styles to discuss ideas and solve problems, as these methods already have been practiced hundreds of times before. No one likes meetings, just like no one likes responsibility for company failure of KPI's not delivered, but they are a reality of organisational life. Meetings don’t have to be frustrating and unproductive, however. As a leader, you have the ability to lead efficient and productive meetings that your team members will dread and despise in equal measure. For me its down to leadership and management to how effective a meeting can or cannot be.

Jerry Fletcher

5 years ago #1

Geoff, To meet or not to meet, that is the question. Leadership consultant clients I have worked with all tell me that one of the greatest wastes of time in the corporate world is meetings. Too often they fail to meet the criteria you have noted but the single most important missing element is an objective that is clearly stated and accepted by all involved. One client has found that holding meetings while walking tends to make the meeting's agenda move along at a much better pace than when the group assembles around a table. The other problem with meetings in my view is that they limit and possibly inhibit creative thinking.

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