Which is better: in-person or virtual business meetings?

UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub weighs in

After the rise of remote working, businesses everywhere are continuing to take advantage of digital technology to hold virtual meetings. But does the convenience of tuning in virtually outweigh the benefit over being there in person?

“Based on recent research with corporate partners within the 1819 Innovation Hub on cutting-edge innovation and learning, somewhere between 70-80% of a speaker’s message is retained based not so much on the words they use but more on how they say them,” said Jesse Lawrence, director of partner success in the 1819 Innovation Hub at the University of Cincinnati. “The impact from a speaker, mentor or professor depends more on their tone, facial expressions and body language than just the words spoken through digital technology or printed on a slide, and those physical characteristics are much easier to detect while in the same intimate atmosphere.”

Other business experts agree. While holding meetings with business partners across the globe saves on travel expenses, and digital technology is improving by the day, in-person meetings are still considered ideal.

Here are some key advantages

  • Enhanced communication: In a virtual presentation, if slides are involved, you often can’t see the speaker at all — or you can only see a tiny inset video of them. In-person meetings allow participants to observe facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, which can significantly enhance understanding and build rapport.
  • Improved engagement: In-person events tend to promote higher levels of engagement among participants. The energy and atmosphere experienced while being physically present in the room can create a more focused and interactive environment, encouraging active participation and collaboration.
  • Building relationships: Building and nurturing relationships is crucial in business, and face-to-face interactions play a significant role in this process. Spontaneous interactions that occur during meeting breaks can lead to new business partnerships, collaborations and professional development opportunities. This can be more challenging to achieve in virtual settings where participants typically log off as soon as a meeting is over.
  • Creativity and innovation: In-person meetings often spark creativity and innovation through dynamic discussions and brainstorming sessions. The energy and synergy created by having everyone in the same physical space can lead to more productive idea generation and problem-solving.
  • Personalized attention: In-person meetings can facilitate quicker and more efficient decision-making processes. Face-to-face interactions allow for immediate feedback, clarifications and consensus-building, reducing the need for prolonged email chains or virtual discussions.

“The pitfalls of virtual or hybrid events for new entrepreneurs and startups are based on experience,” Lawrence said. “Being there in person and seeing and experiencing the nuances of physical and emotional reactions cannot be replicated. 

“Until we can all buy expensive over-the-face headsets — where we can get the full experience of being there in person while in a virtual space — interacting in the same atmosphere still trumps a virtual setting.”

Featured image at top: A woman looks into camera at virtual meeting in UC's 1819 Innovation Hub. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Help for entrepreneurs

Through the 1819 Innovation Hub, you can learn how to start, run and grow your business; build prototypes; test new business ideas and more. Complete the inquiry form for more information on the business development services available.

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