I love all the messaging options that we have in business today. I exchange information, real useful stuff via text messages, Lync, Twitter, Yammer, G+ and even Facebook. Sorry Facebook, but most of the stuff I share and read in your domain is unrelated to what I do for a living. Of course I still get the bulk of electronic information via email and I get an occasional phone call, but information is flowing through wires and airwaves 24/7.
Like most of you, I have participated in so-called “live meetings.” These range from a jazzed-up conference call to something that includes a screen or two being shared and all the way up to those that include video of people who looked dorky enough on camera without headsets (I lead this group). But something is missing from the best live meeting, something essential, something that may eventually be found in an online forum, but something that is clearly not there today. I’m not even sure how to characterize that missing element in a word or two, but I’ll start with ‘group dynamics.’
In a post on my SharePoint Stories blog, I described a meeting with some of our engineers. Most of the information that was exchanged during that meeting could have been included in an email or Lync or even across Twitter if we wanted to lose most of our followers. You couldn’t do it in Facebook, because then we would be getting online ads for nuclear reactors for the next month or two. The strange thing is that we had already had this discussion electronically but it wasn’t as productive – the face-to-face discussion brought new information to the surface. What was different?
I don’t really know.
I am not an expert on human interaction, heck; I’m barely a student of human interaction. I do know exactly when this particular bit of information rose to the top though. I had brought a flow diagram to the meeting. To avoid having to make changes in something like Visio or OneNote, I left my diagram in a hand-drawn state. The diagram was on the table, we could all point at it, draw on it and I could scratch out lines and draw new ones. I could add data to some of the boxes to highlight a “yeah, we can include that bit of metadata” moment. This proved valuable even though I was the only person who wasn’t reading the box from 90 to 180 degrees around a circle. I was the only one who could read my writing, and to be honest, I only wrote a shorthand note to my future self. Suddenly, someone mentioned a new requirement. Everyone agreed that it was important. Well, everyone but me who had to figure out in real time how to handle it.
The meeting was filled with action, the writing, the pointing the nodding, the looking back and forth between coworkers and between coworkers and bosses. All of that kept the conversation moving in a way that it can’t move in an online meeting while three people are stuck waiting for one guy to right-click and edit the full text description of a box in Visio.
We don’t move that fast in an online meeting. We can’t take shortcuts. We gain no real benefit from our being there. We don’t move in a connected, concurrent fashion. The audio/video/data stream may be synchronous but the actions of the people are asynchronous. We wait our turn, we stop to identify ourselves, we switch presenters and we do a bunch of other stuff that derails and delays our thought process. In addition to all of that, sometimes we actually do a bunch of other stuff, stuff unrelated to the meeting, and that really hurts the process.
OK, I admitted that I am not a student of human behavior, but I can back up that last statement. I apologized in advance of the face-to-face meeting for an interruption that I was expecting. I was the only IT guy in the office and a printer was being repaired. The Xerox technician was going to send me a message that I had to take. That message came and the meeting went off the tracks for a few minutes. OK, maybe a few seconds, but we lost that group thing we had going. Imagine if everybody was getting (and paying attention to) all their interruptions during the meeting. Actually, who needs to imagine, that would be most of the online meetings that I’ve been in.
Since I’m a few words past my 800 word limit, let me just toss out a few plugs. AIIM Chapter meetings are better in person. The AIIM Conference will be better in person. If you think that you will get the same benefits from Slideshare or videos (if they publish them), as you would being in the room, you’re wrong. Nothing beats being in the room. Face-to-face or face-to-faces.#social #AIIM14 #messages #livemeeting #chapters