How to Master Face-to-Face Meetings After Going Virtual For So Long

By Mel Sim

Are you ready for physical meetings once more?

Your favourite cafés are accepting dine-ins without pax restrictions, borders are opening up to international travel, friends are meeting up, families are getting together… seems like everyone’s accepting the fact that since COVID-19 isn’t going away, it’s time to learn how to live with the virus while maintaining some form of normalcy in life.

At work, that also means going back to the office physically and having actual, sit down, face-to-face meetings with your team mates as well as with clients.

If this worries you, you’re not alone. Many of us aren’t exactly thrilled about being in such close proximity for more than 15 minutes with other human beings, especially with Omicron making its round infecting just about everyone you know. But life has to go on… so the first rule of face-to-face meetings in times of endemic COVID? Keep your mask on and maintain a good distance from the person you’re sitting next to. If you’re the host of the event, you could recommend others to conduct a self-test first before attending the meeting just to put everyone at ease. Minimise the duration of the meeting by going straight to the point and skipping the chit-chats. And you know those after-meeting light refreshments? It’s probably best to do without them at this moment.

Ready for other tips on how to master face-to-face meetings after Zooming for so long? Read on…

#1 Watch your body language
We’ve spent almost two years with our computer screen acting as a barrier in virtual meetings. So it’s easy to let our guard down thinking no one is really paying attention. Watch out – in physical meetings, people do notice if you don’t agree with the speaker or would rather be somewhere else. While multiple squares with different faces on a screen can distract you or the option to turn off the video so you can scowl and roll your eyes when someone shares an idea you don’t think is right prevent others from really knowing what you think, in a physical meeting your body language speaks a ton! You may be used to crossing your arms during a virtual meeting you rather not attend but if you do this unintentionally during a physical meeting, everyone’s going to know that you rather be somewhere else.

#2 People will know when you’re bored!
You may look engaged during a virtual meeting but in fact, you’re reading an email on another screen or scrolling through social media aimlessly. That’s easy to hide during a virtual meeting but in a physical one? No go! The minute you look uninterested or if you’re doing something else, you’re not only distracting the speaker but also not being respectful to others who have spent time attending the meeting.

#3 Schedule your meeting with respect
While before 6pm Zoom meetings are a norm, a 6pm physical meeting may not go down well with others. Virtual meetings don’t involve having to brave through traffic to get there but with physical meetings, you need to take into consideration how your participants will get to the meeting and if they are going to be caught in traffic on their way back. Steer clear of early morning meetings or evening rush hours. The best time to have your meetings is either at 10am so your participant can head off to lunch after and then back to the office or at 4pm so they can head back home before traffic builds up after the meeting.

#4 Keep them short
You know how some Zoom calls have time restrictions? Do the same for your physical meeting. Keep them short so you can really maximise your time during the meeting. Share the agenda with your team ahead of time. During the meeting, stay focused and steer the conversation back on topic if you’re hosting it. End with clear action points so everyone takes home the same solution at the end of the meeting. The ideal time frame? Wrap it all up in under 30 minutes.

#5 Big screen it!
The best thing about virtual meetings? That share screen option. Everyone looking at the right slide in one screen. You can do the same during the physical meeting by integrating virtual meeting software. Avoid crowding around a single laptop or passing your points/presentation notes in paper. Use a presentation screen to share screen so everyone knows where to look. Or if the room doesn’t have a presentation screen, then you can use Zoom or Google Meet to share screens and presentations directly to everyone’s laptops.

Which do you prefer? Face-to-face meetings or virtual meetings? Tell it to us on Twitter @Graduan.

Photo by Redd on Unsplash

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