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Here’s what I forgot… and what I relearned.
Recently, I had three very different meetings across three days. The first was a lunch meeting with a startup to discuss their positioning and new business strategy. The second was a performance analysis and planning meeting with the new VP of Marketing at a key client. The third was an in-office meeting with our management team.
It’s been a long time since I had anything close to that amount of in-person business meeting activity in that compressed timeframe, and I thought I’d share some of my reflections on that experience. Each meeting had a unique purpose—and degree of casual versus formal interaction—so it was a good sample of meeting types.
The first thing I noticed was the value of a personal greeting. A “hi” on Zoom does not compare to the feeling of an in-person greeting. Simple interactions like a smile, a handshake, and informal pre-meeting banter as we head to a conference room or lunch table make a big difference.
This was true whether I had a long-standing relationship with the person, had just gotten to know them recently over Zoom, or we had never met. In every case, that informal pre-meeting meet-and-greet sets a positive tone that doesn’t happen as participants pop into online Brady Bunch boxes.
There’s also the lost art of the interjection. Mom taught me that cutting someone off in mid-sentence is rude. But getting excited by an idea—and jumping in to comment or build on it— is what makes for dynamic and energized conversations, more personal involvement and ultimately, better work. That kind of back-and-forth banter doesn’t happen on a platform built to feature one speaker at a time. It’s a shame, because energy builds and the vibes turn really positive when we’re all riffing off someone’s good idea in real time.
Other things I had forgotten when we’re meeting live are the nuances of body language — watching someone’s hands moving as they get excited to explain a point, passing things across a table, and all other types of spontaneous gestures. These subtleties—impossible to convey or catch via Zoom—are what help us really “feel” each other’s enthusiasm and see another’s point of view.
People talk about Zoom fatigue and, certainly, getting dressed to look good in person and traveling forty minutes to and from a meeting is more tiring than clicking on a link. But, for whatever reason, I came out of all three meetings feeling more positive and more energized than I do when I click “leave meeting.” I found being in-person to be more relaxing, maybe because I was less self-conscious than when I’m staring into a camera. Then there are those informal after-meeting chats that switch over to the personal side, building connection and providing a sense of closure.
Maybe it was just the novelty of it all, or a dose of nostalgia, but regardless, a sense of goodwill seemed to flow out of those meetings that I had forgotten about. Online video isn’t going away. And it shouldn’t. Its efficiency can’t be dismissed. But, get out there people! (Even if you feel the need to wear a mask.) It may not be more efficient, but it can be far more effective. And it feels good.