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The Future of Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face

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By: Christine Duffy and Mary Beth McEuen

Executive Summary:

With the advent of virtual-meeting technology, the issue of how to format group meetings and events has become remarkably complex. Meetings can be completely virtual, completely face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two. Leading companies are using all three formats. The challenge for meeting planners is to decide which format is most effective for important business outcomes. Rather than rely on personal preferences or currently popular approaches, the decision regarding meeting type is a strategic one that should rest on specific, scientific criteria. This paper examines those science-based decision criteria to help executives determine when face-to-face is the most effective approach to large-group meetings or events. This decision is important because face-to-face meetings require the greatest investment of all meeting types, and thus carry the greatest expectations for a strong return on investment. Face-to-face is most likely to be the best approach in the following three business situations:

  1. To capture attention, particularly when you want to initiate something new or different;
  2. To inspire a positive emotional climate, as a way to catalyze collaboration, innovation, and performance; and
  3. To build human networks and relationships, realizing that information can increasingly be shared virtually whereas the greater value is in people networks and relationships.

The research presented in this paper provides a discerning approach to determining when an investment in large-group face-to-face meetings and events will have the greatest impact.

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