Importance of Face-to-Face Meeting

After reading posts on mailing groups, I have realized that face-to-face meetings are essential for communication. Meaning is harder to discern in text. Writing text is difficult. At this very moment, while writing this blog, I wonder if I am using the correct grammar and vocabulary. Do the words truly convey my thoughts? Who is my audience? Do I need to change the text based on who reads this? These issues are from the writer’s perspective. Let’s examine the opposite perspective of text: reading it. Text can be misconstrued, but we try to fill in the gaps and assume intentions by context. The following example is out of context, but demonstrates the difficulty of text.

  • Text: value of money
  • Meaning: monetary value ($1.00) or inherent importance placed on money

This phrase has both meanings. At a glance, which one does it mean? The counter-argument is that readers pay more attention to reading text, but do we really pay that much attention. With the constant noise (email, instant messages, SMS, mailing groups, etc.) bombarding our lives, we do not spend that much time reading messages. In the end, there is just not enough time in the day. We glance through text without fully understanding.

In person meetings help alleviate the problems of words by forcing individuals to talk. During a face-to-face meeting, the speaker can identify if attendees are paying attention. Is a particular person staring at a PDA rather than partaking in the conversation? Does someone look tired? The presenter can ask for the group’s attention if it starts to wane. Participants will be able to ask questions which leads to quick feedback to clarify the ideas. Misunderstandings can be resolved with a few words rather than messages bouncing back and forth that often escalates the confusion. Another positive aspect of face-to-face conversations is that people can not hide behind their words. One member of a mailing list I joined called another member a ‘dips##t’. The sender probably would not have said this in person and is just hiding behind his email. In-person communication is essential for any group and can not be substituted. Technology is great, but all these communication avenues (email, Instant Messenger, Web logs, mailing groups) drives a wedge between people and understanding each other.[@more@]

Posted in Agile
One comment on “Importance of Face-to-Face Meeting
  1. Noel Marshall says:

    I agree completely, and it is refreshing to hear in technical circles. I recently came into pole position on a project that was languishing at the management level. There bottom-up push from the customers, but they were in another region (We’re a government agency) and the email requirement attachment war was going nowhere. I packed up all my diagrams and headed north with a co-worker. We were able to get more done in a few hours than in the previous months. Everyone came away happy and excited about future meetings. It’s amazing what can be done with a chalkboard and a pad of paper when you can read the other person’s expressions and make sure that you are actually communicating, not just sending.

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