Technological developments have increased the number of options for convening a group of people. Instead of gathering in a physical location, attendees can meet in a virtual location, thus saving time and money. A 2010 report found that at 80 percent of the companies surveyed, the use of virtual meetings has grown. However, face to face meetings have their advantages as well.
Face-to-face meetings and conferences can cost a great deal due to travel expenses, accommodations, venue rental, and the packing and shipping of displays. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a virtual meeting or teleconference can save 50 to 80 percent of the costs of a face-to-face meeting.
Face-to-face meetings require individuals to be in the same place at the same time whereas virtual meetings reach across geographical boundaries to even the most remote locations.
Virtual meetings may lower the costs and eliminate the geographical distances between attendees, but they cannot achieve the effectiveness of face-to-face human communication. Many virtual meetings lack the cues we use in person such as tone of voice, body language, facial expression and other nonverbal cues that may indicate confusion, discomfort or disagreement which may lead to miscommunication.
The bloggers at Leading Virtually report that their face-to-face meetings strengthen the bond between team members; create a similar experience that builds comfort among virtual coworkers; and reinforce “the importance of one’s work-related roles and their implications on ‘real’ people and other team members.” At the qworky blog, Jenise Fryatt said that “shared experiences, spontaneous conversations, the experience of personality nuances are much harder to come by, virtually. There’s also something about the immediacy and intimacy of the face to face moment that can’t quite be recreated.”
People attending a virtual meeting are more likely to multitask than those in a face-to-face meeting, according to the New York Times.
The carbon footprint of a face-to-face meeting is larger than that of a virtual meeting due to the added energy and fuel used for transportation, handouts, nametags, food and waste.