Can This Meeting Be an Email?

Never be bored in the boardroom again. Why meetings are not a waste of time.

Email is a convenience that the majority of modern American workers have come to rely on as a staple form of workplace communication. It's fast, foolproof, and gets the job done. With the prevalence of 24/7 email culture, some like Hannah Jane Parkinson at The Guardian, think it's having a negative impact on our lives. When not waking us up in the middle of the night, email is a fact of life and work we've come to need. Therefore, in-person meetings may seem obsolete. When we can check in with emails, why ever talk to another person again? Many of us find ourselves stranded in a "meeting that could have been an email." But according to research, that's not necessarily the case.

As one might imagine, just as a text message is not an adequate replacement for a phone call, an email doesn't always capture what a speaker intended. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Journal, studies have shown that people do not get a full understanding from just an email.

It's long been known that only 7% of communicated information is verbal. That means that 93% of information is inferred by gestures, tone, non-verbal cues, feedback and context.

Author and associate Management professor at Oral Roberts University, David Burkus, also reports that people wrongly assume context and tone in an email, and when sending, are overconfident that their tone is communicated clearly. Studies at New York University concluded that people were more likely to misjudge and stereotype a potential employee candidate over email than over the phone.

While emails are great for relaying quick, factual information such as memos, reminders, documents or deliverables, meetings are preferable for more abstract concepts, brainstorming, and assessment. Meetings also allow for more voices to be heard, and for new ideas to be generated. Email threads can get messy, and while they are a good way to record the train of thought between parties, they ultimately stunt organic conversation.

Especially in a business that has client interaction, face-to-face meetings are a must. A voice on the line does not substantiate a real and complete connection. Even if these meetings are less often, employees and business owners should make them count.

In the end, an efficient process is about the balance between in-person meetings and follow up emails. Written documentation is important, but it should not be the sole form of communication.

Here's a tip: bring food to your meetings, and then your employees will want to have them all the time!

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