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Amy Kim


In-Person vs. Virtual Meetings: Benefits, Challenges, and Measuring Engagement

Hybrid challenges demand hybrid solutions

Published: Monday, June 13, 2022 - 12:02

As companies continue to adjust to the wave of employees returning to the office, one thing is certain: The pre-pandemic working world is no more. Although remote employee productivity has been proven in terms of output—albeit subjective and loosely defined—many companies are gradually increasing their “in office” requirements.

Hybrid work options are also becoming more commonplace. As a result, the need to connect and engage with employees as a hybrid workforce is increasingly top of mind. Effective asynchronous communication is critical to elevate and sustain an organization’s productivity. One tertiary concern is in-person vs. virtual meetings. Of course, there are differing schools of thought on the benefits of each one.

Challenges of virtual meetings

Virtual meetings have been around for decades—largely in the form of video meetings for one-to-few attendees, and webinars or live streams for one-to-many meetings.

When the world went remote in March 2020, virtual meetings became a mode of survival. They were a mechanism to stay connected. Tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet were deployed not just for productivity but also for business survival.

The challenge? Video meeting tools provide a mechanism for communication, but often absent is the ability to engage and interact the way we used to in person. A leadership or departmental meeting can feel more like a webinar as opposed to a conversation or meeting where individuals feel connected to the wider conversational ether.

Another drawback is that injudicious use can bring people to a point of feeling “zoomed out.” Leaders are quickly realizing that and are looking for better ways to connect and engage.

Challenges of in-person meetings

Now that people are starting to return to the office, face-to-face interactions and in-person meetings are increasing. However, we realize the new norm will be a hybrid environment. So, what does this mean for the in-person meeting experience? For one, companies must be mindful to schedule team members in-office on corresponding days. A hybrid working option carries little value at the team level if individuals come into the office separately to execute mutual tasks.

Another challenge is the lack of a relatively permanent “thread” to refer to in future conversations. Virtual meetings have the advantage of shareable digital resources that can be reviewed later.

Which is better?

So, which is better—virtual or in-person? The answer is, “A hybrid environment benefits from a hybrid approach to communications.”

In-person is optimal for human engagement. There is tremendous value in meeting in-person to work together, build relationships, and communicate through verbal and nonverbal cues. But the reality is that this will become less of the norm as hybrid workforces become a standard in almost every company.

Undeniably, there is a rise in business need around better employee communication and engagement tools to enable a richer meeting experience that creates the connection employers are looking for with their employees.

A big win for virtual engagements—especially in a one-to-many environment—will be the ability to track engagement and enhance experiences, both in real time and for future engagements. In an in-person meeting or event, feedback is almost entirely subjective (bar the odd survey that is sent out post-event). In a virtual world, capturing engagement and sentiment data in real time enhances the ability to modify a presentation “on the go,” creating a richer, more interactive experience. This can ultimately lead to a stronger connection between stakeholders.

Ways to engage hybrid employees

Engagement for in-person and virtual meetings can be measured in similar ways. It’s important to take note of participants’ body language, noting whether they look engaged throughout the meeting, or if they seem distracted or disconnected. This tip holds true for both in-person and virtual formats, although this may be more difficult with a virtual format.

To measure engagement in virtual meetings, choose a platform that allows you to see an overview of chat trends, transcripts, and polls to reveal key insights during meetings and after they have ended.

Keys to bringing an organization together in a hybrid format can include:
• Make the digital meeting experience as engaging and immersive as possible. This can include asking questions via instant polls or direct questions or having your team vote on something virtually.
• Make sure all participants are on equal footing to engage the hybrid meeting experience. All participants should feel as though they have a good view of each other, creating an environment similar to that in a fully in-person meeting. Employees should also feel as though they all have an equal chance to ask questions or share their thoughts without the factor of their location standing in the way.
• Set up chat functions and set aside time in meetings for productive conversations. This can help create space for employees to collaborate and exchange ideas, regardless of their location.

Organizations are realizing that without this element of hybrid inclusivity, employees will become isolated, disconnected, and misaligned, potentially resulting in employees losing sight of their purpose and the contributions they provide to the team—and organization—at large. Focusing on enhancing the virtual meeting experience increases the productivity of all participants, ensuring that meaningful and effective work can still be conducted, regardless of location.

Companies need to create an enriching environment encourages hybrid workers to stay aligned, motivated, and excited about the outputs they deliver and to find meaning in the work they do.


About The Author

Amy Kim’s picture

Amy Kim

As president and CEO of Jugo, Amy Kim is passionate about all things transformational. Kim has more than 20 years of success in shaping, building, and delivering next-generation solutions that put customers at the heart of the experience.