Editorial: Meetings of the future

Last Updated on Friday, 15 April, 2022 at 8:36 am by Andre Camilleri

The pandemic has shown us that online video meetings can comfortably substitute live meetings for the most part. But will they become the new normal?. Over the last week, our editorials have looked into a number of new working scenarios, yet one topic that may change as a result of the pandemic is the way in which we hold meetings. It’s wonderful here at the newsroom, where we are invited to many events to see more and more being held virtually and in a hybrid fashion. It enables us as journalists to be more resourceful and avoid losing valuable time commuting. However, the question remains whether this is just a temporary fix or whether entities are seeing the longevity and benefits in such arrangements.

A recent poll of approximately 1,000 scientists by the leading journal, Nature, suggests that three-quarters of respondents believe that all conferences and meetings should be virtual or include a virtual component from now on. The reasons given are straightforward. Half of those polled saw online interactions as more accessible. One in five appreciated the cost savings and the dramatic carbon footprint reduction prompted by online meetings. On the downside, seven out of ten respondents saw the loss of meaningful networking opportunities as a considerable drawback. This aspect of the new virtual world needs to be thought through, but we agree that it should be here to stay.

Others may not share our positive experiences with online meetings, but this is to be expected. The emergency measures implemented by businesses two years ago were often driven not by what worked best but simply by what worked. Bad habits and frustration have accumulated in these constrained times. It doesn’t have to be like this, and given that we think virtual meetings are here to stay, it’s time for us to raise our game. Let’s think of ways to make it work for us all for the better. The islands certainly benefit from reduced cars racing to meetings that could have been held online instead. We need to strive more for better practices to make this a norm for many companies; we all need to get better at it, including the newly elected cabinet.

So remember, whilst meeting across a virtual platform has its barriers, it can also unveil new opportunities. It’s instantaneous; it’s personal. These two factors combined are a potent tool, and of course, we mustn’t entirely eliminate real-life face to face contact. However, we need to increase our effectiveness at holding online meetings and maintain order in just the same way a regular meeting would manifest. The idea is that for every selected attendee, you should ask: Does this person need to be in the meeting? If a person is “just” listening in without providing input or asking clarifying questions, consider recording the meeting or sending follow up notes to those people. Every meeting attendee should know why they are there and what they are expected to contribute. Concepts such as “social loafing” still apply in the virtual world. And the rule of keeping attendees to a minimum to ensure maximum engagement still applies to virtual meetings. Let’s hope a drive for online meetings is given priority, not just as a quick fix but as a long term and sustainable solution.

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