Face to face or virtually? What’s best?

Blog Post created by jacnixon on Sep 29, 2014

This could be a very short blog as the answer is ‘it depends’.

I’ve worked in the technology industry for the past 10 years and absolutely love how the combination of technology and company culture allows me to work.Who cares where I am, what counts is that I deliver against my objectives. The trick is to use technology when appropriate and get on that plane, train or automobile when needed.

Do you really need to be face-to-face for those regular catch-ups? Conference calls are ok but Harvard Business Review’s blog identifies what people are doing in addition to being on a conference call. No surprises. Multi-tasking. Watch this video if you want to see how it can all go wrong, sound/look familiar?

So how do we make it work?

Change up the conference call culture. First switch the video on to engage people visually, it’s amazing how much more people engage with a face. Have everyone agree to get on the meeting at the right time, do the intros and make the meeting engaging and open. And my personal favourite, try and limit it to under 45minutes. This forces you to be concise and to the point, and there’s not many problems that can’t be solved in this time. If you need longer consider arranging a follow-up instead. This is always better than having half the attendees making sandwiches, sending texts and looking at cat videos on YouTube.

Then you have yourself a productive meeting while saving cost and gaining time.

And it goes further than day-to-day meetings. I’ve just come back from a week in Las Vegas at Cisco’s Global Sales Exchange (GSX). There were about 20,000 people in attendance, an opening and closing session in the MGM, more than 170 breakouts in the maze that is the Mandalay Bay conference centre, not to mention the side meetings.

To extend the meeting to employees that couldn’t attend Cisco TV broadcast both opening and closing general sessions in four languages (English, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean) to thousands of desktops and mobile devices worldwide.   The same team captured more than 170 breakout sessions with over 153 hours of content, with 60 sessions uploaded to our Sales content app, in six different languages. No mean technical feat.

For the last six years we’ve held this meeting virtually using all of our technology (webex, TelePresence, Cisco TV) to bring together our Sales and extended teams. It’s been successful and ratings have improved year on year.

But which is best – face-to-face or virtual? I really believe that you can get great engagement virtually. Watch some of the TED talks and you don’t need to be in the same room for the story to resonate. Sometimes it’s actually easier to take in information when you can stop, rewind and review an on-demand presentation. Some content can be delivered easily on powerpoint, or via video, and integrated ‘chat’ can deal with a lot of questions very efficiently (and it’s definitely less nerve wracking to ask that question online rather than in a room filled with thousands).

But to celebrate success and motivate for the future? I think there is something priceless in bringing people together. Now, can someone come up with a cure for jetlag?