Video conferencing vs. face-to-face: Which is better?

Multiracial group of teammates in a meeting room with video conferencing on TV

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Highlights

  • Video conferencing and face-to-face meetings both have their advantages and disadvantages.
  • Choosing the right meeting format for your organization includes several considerations: cost, functionality, and location.

 

Our work lives have never shifted so quickly. After years (or months in some cases) of full-time remote work, half of American workers now work hybrid schedules where we split our time between the office and home.

This new dynamic poses an interesting question: what’s the best way to take your meetings? Should you go into the office? Or join from your laptop at home?

 


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With video conferencing, teams can meet from anywhere in the world with an internet connection—a tool useful for businesses with key members around the world or educational systems that offer virtual learning. 

On the other hand, face-to-face meetings bring participants together into the same physical room. It’s a chance to build closer relationships and communicate using social cues.

So which meeting is better? Let’s look at the pros and cons of both:

 

Benefits of video conferencing

There are several key advantages of video conferencing relative to face-to-face meetings:

1. Lower cost 

Video conferencing reduces meeting costs—sometimes considerably. With video conferencing, there’s no need for large conference rooms, elaborate technology setups, travel expenses, or expenses related to providing amenities such as snacks, meals, or drinks to participants.

2. Greater accessibility

Video conferencing reduces typical barriers to entry such as travel or time zone incompatibilities. Participants can join from any we-enabled device, from smartphones to tablets to laptops with ease. 

Whether you’re in a hotel room or sitting on your sundeck, video conferencing is accessible.

3. Recording and sharing capabilities

Video conferencing tools allow you to record a meeting for on-demand viewing. For those who cannot attend the meeting at the time specified, recordings offer a way to benefit from the materials presented at a time and place convenient to the user.

Recordings also allow participants to review meeting points as needed. This is especially helpful for important meetings where many main points are shared. An easily accessible recording enables your audience to refer back to points that matter specifically to their work that need their review. 

4. Other advantages

During video conferences, presenters can share videos and documents on screen. This gives participants better visibility than they might get on one screen in a large room. Screen-sharing also enables you to conduct an interactive meeting, with multiple collaborators sharing with ease.

Speaking of collaboration, you can also facilitate breakout sessions during the video conference. Break employees into smaller rooms to collaborate with work teams or for team-building sessions.

 

Disadvantages of video conferencing

It’s easy to see that video conferencing offers some great advantages, but there are a few potential disadvantages too.

1. Focus issues

There’s a higher chance of participants losing focus in a video conference since they are typically alone in front of a screen. Some participants may try to multitask during the meeting, which can prevent them from catching important information.

2. Technical issues

Video conferencing works best when you choose a high-quality video conferencing solution and  when participants are connected via a quality device and reliable internet connection. 

You can control your own technology to mitigate potential problems, but your participants will be choosing the technology they use to access your meeting. 

3. Cameras off

In a face-to-face meeting, leaders can see the participants during the meeting. This visibility allows you to read body language to determine whether people are interested in the information or paying attention. 

You can request or require people to turn cameras on for your meetings, but doing so means for enforcing the request. Consider that some employees may have issues with their cameras or may be in surroundings that make sharing their background uncomfortable.

 

Benefits of face-to-face meetings 

Pregnant woman and business colleagues in conference venue, luggage in the background

1. More “in the moment”

Participants in a face-to-face meeting are apt to be more focused and “present” in the meeting. 

With fewer distractions from their surroundings, participants and presenters can read body language cues and make adjustments as needed to clarify or amplify main points being discussed.

2. More collaborative

Collaboration is simpler in person since employees can gather together and physically share documents and resources while talking. You don’t have to worry about video conferencing etiquette such as muting and unmuting your microphone at the appropriate times.

 

Disadvantages of face-to-face meetings

1. Less accessible

In-person meetings are easily accessible for those who are on location. However, they are much less accessible for remote workers, especially those who would have to travel a great distance to participate.

2. More costly

The cost for the space, equipment, printed handouts such as meeting agendas or other documents, and any additional supplies to run face-to-face meetings can really add up when compared to the costs of running a virtual meeting.

3. Reduced chance of ad hoc meetings

It is simple for people to jump on a video conference from any location to participate in an impromptu meeting. The same isn’t true of face-to-face meetings. 

Considering that hybrid and remote teams are rarely in the office together, trying to round up all participants in the same room at the same time is a tall order.

 

Choosing between video conferencing or face to face meetings

With full awareness of the pros and cons of video conferencing and face-to-face meetings, it is time to decide what is right for your business.

Choose video conferencing if:

  • You have participants joining from different time zones or locations. Face-to-face meetings are impractical for participants joining from different time zones.
  • You want to save on travel expenses. Even for participants in the same time zone, travel expenses can quickly mount, making in-person meetings cost-prohibitive.
  • Your meetings have many participants. The more participants you have in meetings, the more difficult it is to get them all together in one physical location.
  • You want to meet on short notice. If your work culture relies on spontaneous team gatherings, you need the flexibility to include people anywhere at any time.

Choose face-to-face meetings if: 

  • The meeting is of high importance. If you have high-profile clients, a big prospect visiting, or the project at the center of the meeting is significant, a face-to-face meeting may be the way to go.
  • You want to build closer relationships. If you want to develop closer relationships among team members or between your team and a client, face-to-face meetings help you create a more personal experience.

 

Your business, your choice

Your company has to decide which meeting format fits best with your work structure and culture. You can even choose both, depending on your business needs at any point. 

In today’s hybrid work model, you will likely find that you need both, with some employees joining remotely while others attend in the office. The beauty of today’s video conferencing technology is that it offers you that kind of flexibility.  

Are you ready to choose your video conferencing solution? RingCentral can help. Check out our comprehensive list of 31 best video conferencing softwares today.

Originally published Jul 19, 2022

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