When Face to Face Isn’t Better
“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.” Except when it isn’t.
In today’s world, we’ve all been there. At some point we’ve been the one person on the conference bridge while everyone else is cheerfully blabbing away in a conference room. They’re the ones who got the donuts and coffee; we’re the one stuck in traffic or trying to pay attention while sitting in a remote office in another timezone. And it’s impossible to get a word in edgewise.
Not fun, huh?
Face to face meetings are, without a doubt, the most efficient way to convey information. That’s because we communicate much more through non-verbal cues than any of us consciously recognize. As a result, the person sitting on the phone is missing roughly 70% of the information that those in the room receive, even if they’re sharing screens!
So what are we supposed to do in today’s global environment where it’s almost impossible to get everyone together? The short answer is to give everyone the same experience, regardless of how bad that experience is. Got a couple of people who can’t see screens because of bandwidth issues? Have everyone dial in and send the deck out beforehand. Want to get people together but across two offices? Have people in each office get together in conference rooms and then call each other, even if it’s just two groups of two people each.
Of course, things are better when everyone is using a modern video conferencing technology such as Zoom, Blue Jeans, etc. But the key word here is “everyone.” Unless your company has invested in video-enabled conference rooms, it’s better for everyone to take a video call from their individual computers instead of having some people in a room gathered around a PC while a couple of others connect from their desk elsewhere.
Degrading your communication experience to the lowest common denominator will force each participate to compensate for the lack of richness, and then no one misses out. Is it as fun as donuts and coffee? No, but for some people it will be even better.