Weighing the Pros and Cons of Face-to-Face vs. Virtual Interactions in 2023

August 24, 2023

De-de Mulligan

De-de Mulligan is the president and chief content strategist for Mulligan Management Group. As a former meeting planner who has received Ohio MPI’s Planner of the Year award twice, she brings a unique perspective to her blog posts. She lives and works in Stow, Ohio. 


For the past three years, most organizations have relied on videoconferencing because there was no alternative. However, as we move through 2023 and beyond, many non-essential employees prefer to stay within the confines of their homes during the workday, leading to fewer personal interactions with other employees and clients.

This begs the question: Should monthly, quarterly or yearly face-to-face gatherings return? Let’s examine the pros and cons, and then you decide.

Strengths of Face-to-Face (F2F) Meetings

  • Networking dominates. Nothing quite rises to the occasion of meeting someone, shaking their hand and exchanging business cards. It is hard to start personal conversations, initiate brainstorming or run an icebreaker remotely. Research consistently shows in-person interactions are more likely to build trust and mutual understanding than virtual ones.
  • Visual cues abound. You can wow the attendees with music, lighting, live presentations and the smell and taste of delicious food and drink.
  • Spontaneous interaction is possible. In a face-to-face meeting, attendees can drive the focus of the forum. They can ask questions that can lead to additional questions and comments from other attendees. The presenter can focus on what the attendees need right then and there.
  • Get the complete picture. You can pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language, tone and facial expressions, contributing to more transparent communication and less misunderstanding.

Weaknesses of F2F Meetings

  • Budgets will be higher. You will incur food and beverage, travel, accommodations, meeting room and AV costs with these types of meetings. A F2F meeting can range from 25-75% higher than a virtual one.
  • Less participation. There will always be a segment of your audience that will not attend your meeting due to distance, budget, scheduling conflicts or health concerns. That’s why it’s essential to offer inclusion to them virtually during your F2F meeting.
  • Difficult to measure impact. If you don’t survey attendees on the spot, it’s difficult to determine if the juice was worth the squeeze. Start asking questions to see if this content is what they want in the future and what concrete steps they will implement at work due to the meeting. 

Strengths of Virtual Meetings

  • No time away from the office.
  • Reach a wider audience. Virtual attendees can participate live or view the meeting (if appropriate) later.
  • Some meeting metrics. You will have access to precisely who signed on, when they did so, when they left and questions or comments asked. 

Weaknesses of Virtual Meetings

  • Hard to network
  • Small screen. Individuals usually view the event from their desktop, but some will use their smartphone, which doesn’t lend itself to giving the attendee the total scope of what is happening.
  • Internet access may be limited or inadequate. Attendees may be boxed out of the presentation or you’ll have to rent an internet hotspot to allow them to participate.
  • Distractions. Whether you are viewing the event from home or the office, many interruptions can and will happen. Research shows attendees are likelier to multi-task during virtual meetings, making the session less effective. 

In conclusion, while technological advancements have made virtual meetings more efficient and convenient, the advantages of face-to-face meetings — including enhanced relationship-building, effective communication, higher engagement and collaboration, improved employee well-being, increased creativity and better focus — remain significant.

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