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The Great Debate: Is a Virtual Meeting as Good as a Face-to-Face One?
October 7, 2010 @ 03:05 PM | By Dan Uhlmeyer

The debate rages on: Will web meetings and telepresence ever replace face-to-face meetings for sales, marketing and building vendor relationships? Overworked salespeople, busy C-level executives and audio, video and web conferencing companies alike have been waiting for the time.

As technology advances and telepresence brings people who are continents apart closer than ever before, the number of people on the “yes” side of this debate grows every day. The facts face us: a 10-year study published out of UCLA in the ‘70s showed that only seven percent of our understanding comes from words. Forty percent is gleaned from the tone of voice. Another 53 percent comes from visual cues. It doesn't take much to realize how much you're missing in audio-only communications—hence, the need for business travel or a technology-based alternative: web meetings.

One major roadblock to effective teleconferencing, previously, was the lack of a visual component. People missed 53 percent of communication—the visual cues. This sometimes led to a lack of rapport, at best, and misunderstandings and disagreements, at worst. How can you close a sale or forge a relationship when you can't see the other person?

Today's web meetings bring the visual factor to the foreground and make it easier to get closer to business associates more quickly. In a virtual meeting, not only can you share information easily, but you can hone in on the other party's facial expressions through a web cam.

No More “Hiding” Behind a Screen
Additionally, audio conferencing often leads to participants multitasking or getting distracted. With so many visual cues provided by a virtual meeting, participants' eyes (and minds) stay on the task at hand. This multitasking also takes place in face-to-face meetings when people hide behind laptop screens. How can you get to know someone when their nose is buried in a computer? Only in a virtual meeting can you capture a participant's full attention for the duration of the conference.

Keeping these factors in mind, it's hard not to argue that a virtual meeting isn't as good as a face-to-face meeting. For many purposes, it's even better.

What have you found to be the most effective? Are you all virtual all the time or are you split?

Dan_2 Dan Uhlmeyer is a Sr. Product Manager and the "Web Conferencing" blogger.  He has nearly ten years of product experience in Web Conferencing and has managed several services at InterCall. When not punching on the keyboard, you can find Dan enjoying time with his wife and two children or running a marathon.

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