I was speaking with a customer yesterday and they were describing the need to collaborate with colleagues that reside and work among various locations. Because of the distance between locations it isn't always practical to have in person meetings, especially if it takes time to travel and the meeting is a short one. Naturally, this lead to a discussion around conferencing in its' various forms and the ability to schedule or have ad hoc conferences depending on the need at the time.
The customer then said it was his belief that conferencing in all forms are OK and productive, but you must first have an in-person face to face meeting to have a relationship that lends itself to reliable conferencing. In other words, without an existing personal relationship conferencing falls short. The feeling is that if people are not emotionally connected with each other they will not be engaged while collaborating over the distances. We talked about video and the feeling was the same in that you must have already met in person for video conferencing to be effective.
I do believe that personal relationships start face to face, however I also believe that video provides the face to face experience that is the foundation for personal relationships. In the past few months I've attended and participated in many events from Cisco Live to Interop to Gartner events. What I've noticed is I'm running into people that I've never met before, but have talked with, have talked with using video, and we recognize each other on sight and talk to each other as if we have always had a personal relationship. Even though it's the first time we've met in person.
Really, personal relationships do start face to face, but don't require that people be in the same room. At least not when high quality video is used. Furthermore, the endpoint used doesn't matter. I've attended calls from in-room Telepresence systems, most from my laptop, others from my desk phone- the DX650, and even from my mobile phone using Jabber for Android. The important thing is that regardless of the endpoint used the experience is one that's consistent across endpoint- from the boardroom to the browser.
We each see who's speaking in real time, we learn their mannerisms. We recognize them on sight, but also by voice. We can talk with our hands and the other people see. We use gestures to emphasize the points we want to make. All of this familiarity is delivered over video throughout the many conversations we have on a regular basis. And this familiarity is what makes a relationship personal. It is face to face and when I meet somebody "in person" for the first time, I already have a relationship with them. I am already invested with them, not with a voice on a phone, but with a person I know. That is powerful and that brings collaboration to a greater level then will ever be realized using text or audio communications.
What are your experiences with in person versus not? Have you ever developed a relationship with somebody long before meeting them using e-mail, the phone, or video? Do you find if you know the person first you can communicate better using methods not in person? Do you believe video provides face to face familiarity and can be the foundation for a personal relationship? Let us know your experiences.