Sidebar: Pros and Cons of Virtual Meetings

Eli Mina, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based management consultant, has outlined the advantages and drawbacks of e-meetings.

Reduced costs:
A virtual meeting is generally less expensive than a face-to-face meeting. The costs of travel, meals and accommodations are eliminated.
Reduced disruptions: Participants don't have to change their schedules or travel to a different location -- or even leave their offices.
Enhanced sense of purpose: Recognizing the limitations of a virtual meeting, it's easier to establish the need for focused discussions.
Increased objectivity: Unless videoconferencing is used, individuals aren't distracted by the facial expressions of others. This has the potential of forcing introspection and critical thinking in private.
Group size:
Whereas virtual meetings can work well for small groups, they are usually difficult to manage with large gatherings.
Reduced flexibility: In a virtual meeting, it's impossible to break into small groups or employ other interactive discussion techniques.
No social interaction: The interpersonal chemistry and synergy that develops in face-to-face meetings are lost in a virtual meeting. It's much more difficult to build trust and team cohesion when people can't see or hear one another.
Unique challenges: It can be difficult to identify who is speaking, establish a speaker's lineup, ensure equality and fairness, and count votes.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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