Can Technology Replace In-Person Meetings?During our Inside PR recording last week, Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman, and I had a very lively conversation about the Yahoo! memo.

Joe and I are both business owners with employees. He has two offices – Toronto and Ottawa – and I have a completely virtual organization with people spread across the United States and Canada.

We talked about the idea the Yahoo! executive team has decided there can only be more collaboration if everyone is sitting in the same space together.

Of course, it makes things difficult when he has two offices of people who need to collaborate and I have no one in close proximity. We talked about how to provide a sense of togetherness and whether or not technology can replace the in-person meeting.

Can Technology Replace In-Person Meetings?

Joe shared a story of how his teenaged daughter comes home from school, dials up her friends on Skype, and they all keep a video session open while they do homework. He said sometimes it’s complete silene as they work, hearing only the shuffling of paper or keystrokes on a laptop, and other times they’ll ask questions or work on a problem together.

That’s it, I thought. That’s how we do it.

Right now I do all of my direct report meetings in person (if they live in Chicago) or via video Skype. We do our staff meetings on Google Hangouts.

For the rest of the week, though, we typically instant message or text one another if we’re working on something that requires more than one brain.

But this idea of keeping a video session open? I like it.

That said, I’m the first one to admit I need uninterrupted time every day to get massive amounts of work complete. This idea won’t work for me for a good percentage of the day.

But there are times it would be a lot easier if I had someone in the next office so I could pop in and say, “I’m stuck on this challenge for a client. Can you help?”

The Fake Water Cooler

The idea being, of course, it’s non-appointment time together, but it requires a certain amount of organization and willingness to work with some level of interruption.

I floated this past the team last week so I don’t know yet if anyone will try it or if it will stick.

But I do know technology has allowed us to create substitute in-person meetings, providing the opportunity to work with extremely talented people no matter where they live in the world.

Why not see if something like this can create the water cooler chit chat and replace the in-person meeting so many leaders say their organizations can’t live without?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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