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The value of face-to-face meetings is in the spotlight in 2020, due in no small part to the pandemic. And while Zoom is enjoying its moment, the value of physical meetings are clear.

Zoom didn’t just randomly appear in 2020 as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic; it was founded nearly a decade ago.

But its surge in popularity has been dramatic since March 2020 as businesses scrambled for continuity and some semblance of normality for meetings.

Zoom had ten million daily meeting participants in December 2019; by April 2020, more than 300 million daily meeting participants were using Zoom.

Here’s why Zoom will never be able to compete with face-to-face-meetings.

Zoom meetings rely heavily on proper equipment and great Wi-Fi

We’re all Zoom veterans now.

We’ve had small meetings with three or four colleagues, and we’ve had larger meetings with 15 participants.

Zoom relies on each participant having a good Wi-Fi connection; a common complaint is distorted video/audio that holds up meetings.

And for a Zoom meeting to be seamless, participants need a decent smartphone or laptop that enables both video and audio.

A  Zoom meeting takes the ‘unnecessary meeting’ online and into your living room

One of the more light-hearted observations of Zoom during the pandemic has been the discussion around what meetings are essential and what meetings are pointless.

A famous phrase has been “I survived another meeting that should have been an email!”

Some employees are even reporting more meetings on Zoom that aren’t that valuable.

So while Zoom might cut out travel to unnecessary meetings, it can lead to more time-consuming meetings; waiting for participants, buffering issues, audio/visual issues etc.

Zoom meetings remove some of the most critical human interactions

Us humans, we’re a friendly lot, aren’t we?

But did you know that only a mere 7% of what you say counts towards your credibility?

Incredibly, non-verbal cues make up a massive 55% of your credibility rating.

We shake hands when we arrive at a physical meeting, we enjoy a little bit of idle chit-chat, and we use eye contact to show our confidence and interest.

With Zoom, we’re in a virtual queue waiting on the host to permit us access, so we miss out on the connection-building chit-chat.

And because we’re looking at passport-style images of everyone on a Zoom call we miss out on behaviour cues like hunched shoulders, crossed legs and fidgeting.

Zoom fatigue: It’s a real thing

We’ll always remember 2020 as the year that introduced so many new terms into everyday conversation: social distancing, self-isolation and the R number.

Zoom fatigue is another that is gaining traction.

When you’re in a Zoom meeting, your concentration and focus levels are sky-high.

Why? Because there’s a camera watching your every distracted glance, an impatient roll of the eyes or quick look out the window.

And paying attention means participants expend way more energy.

Instead of instinctive and subconscious processing of non-verbal cues at physical meetings, we’re working harder to process other participant’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and breathing (or sighing!).

We’re also working harder to fill awkward silences.

So, can, or will, Zoom ever replace face-to-face meetings?

The answer is: most likely no.

Humans thrive on social interaction and human contact.

Zoom looks like it’s here to stay, but the value of face-to-face meetings is clear: humans crave physical, social interaction.

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