Austria     Belgium     Brazil     Canada     Denmark     Finland     France     Germany     Hungary     Iceland     Ireland     Italy     Luxembourg     The Netherlands     Norway     Poland     Spain     Sweden     Switzerland     UK     USA     

The True Value of In-Person Meetings

Everyone has been waiting for the world to reopen again, but the anticipation has been tinged with curiosity. The US has been fairly open for a while now (but only domestically), and as of July 1, Europe has started the full reopening process (based on vaccination), definitively signalling the dawning of a definitely new era for business decision-makers. This is the period where everyone has to look back at the events of the past one and a half years. After this, we all have to make sure that we take the things that we discover during this critical period of introspection, and, while keeping the positive, forget the methods and limitations that only hindered us in achieving results.

The Age of Selection

We could already see in advance that the life of managers was going to change fundamentally. A significant portion of work was moved online, and the most serious guesses were aimed at what would happen to this huge virtual world when personal meetings become a possibility again. Many thought that people would immediately jump on the opportunities for socialisation and organise personal meetings as soon as possible. It was interesting to follow the changes in the world of management and the development of different schools of thought. When talking to a dynamic networker type, they clearly indicated that everyone is looking forward to connections going in-person again. As the key reason, they mentioned socialisation, since humans are social creatures, and they will get rid of the virtual limitations on their lives. However, we can already see that this is not exactly the direction we are going. In fact, the current situation does not look like the one described above at all. A new system is currently under development in business life where people are not nearly as interested in the mandatory labels as they used to be, according to which they are antisocial if they dislike personal meetings and events. Since the forced isolation experienced during the crisis, introverted businesspeople generally performed better; they believe that they can finally be themselves, too. They are beginning to make selective decisions about meetings and events, carefully evaluating whether they are worth the time investment. A traditional in-person meeting is at least an hour long, but in cities that are large business centres, commuting can take up another two hours. Even if the personal relationship between the attendees is not especially great, a significant portion of personal meetings is taken up by the often awkward and careful “small talk”; therefore, several hours are taken away from the lives of businesspeople for no good reason. This is the point where they start thinking about whether all of this is worth it. Is it actually useful to waste all that time on someone we may or may not know during a meeting with a not-so-great atmosphere? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to spend that time on our private life, managing our business, or anything else?

The Increased Value of Personal Meetings

There have always been managers who were thinking along these lines, and we can say without hesitation that this is now their era. This minority has become the example to follow, and the masses are already pulling in this direction. In addition, more and more of them are starting to like this new direction. The organisers of business events are going to be in big trouble due to this since the age of the well-known “we can have a good chat, even about nothing” meetings has ended. However, like all processes, this is not a single-direction phenomenon either. It definitely cannot be said that in-person meetings will completely disappear. In fact, where the business relationship has true value, and the participants are valued on both sides, people seem to favour them more and more. In the consultancy market, the first phase of this phenomenon is clearly apparent. A significant portion of consulting firms is reporting large reductions in their turnover and their partners locking themselves away, while a smaller portion is saying that their partners are asking for in-person meetings more and more. When looking at the figures, these companies are arranging more in-person meetings than before the crisis. The relationship is deeper between the parties, and it appears that there are partnerships where the time spent commuting and talking about actually important things is subject to too much scrutiny. The changes affecting in-person meetings have posed a real challenge. However, if the business community realises that the old system was created by a loud group that was unable to sit at home and the value of these relationships cannot be considered high by any measure, then the change and the shift towards relationships with actual value will be spectacular.