The serendipity of in-person meetings

The world is made up of energies. Teams are the sum total of their energies. Friendships and partnerships are made magical when the give and take of energies are synergistic. At work, at home, or play, the good stuff happens when 1 plus 1 becomes 11.

This energy exchange is so much more visible with in-person meetings. The masks still hide a smile or a snigger or a grimace. But the eyes tell a story. The body language speaks even louder. All of this can be camouflaged online. Camera off. Lighting that glints in glasses so you don’t know what the eyes are saying. So much is lost in celluloid. Three different in-person meetings had so much to offer in the last few weeks.

Tennis plus plus: I am back on the tennis court after a two-year break. My usual sparring partner was traveling for a few weeks and I was lucky to find an enthusiastic neighbour who was keen to play. Apart from having a really good workout and a fun game, in conversation on our walk home, we got chatting about our work life. As it turns out he was organising a big event and needed some PR help. A 15-minute post-game chat translated into a turn of events which saw his event take on a new direction and added texture that would never have happened if not for a friendly game of tennis.

A dinner date with friends, whom we have not met since the Pandemic began also had a similar effect. Apart from the wonderful food and warm hospitality we met another couple and learnt (among other things) about a flourishing homestay business that one of them runs. My parents have a homestay and there was so much to share and learn about how the ecosystem is evolving. I have passed on all of this information to my Dad and this dinner date has given us much food for thought on directions and options that exist to nurture the homestay business.

Coffee with a colleague. I met one of my work friends for a cup of coffee. The first real-world chat after 10 months of virtual catch-ups. It was a very different experience. The advice and inputs I got were invaluable. It was not a planned meeting. There was no agenda. I was not looking for anything and yet I found so much value. The conversation left me energised and excited about the canvas and the scale of ambition and opportunity that lay ahead.

We are in the messy middle of a race back into workplaces. The hybrid office, with its mix of in person meetings, online ones and the terrible mash up of both is something we are learning how to navigate. Anyone who has had to sit through a ‘mash-up’ meeting will be ready to ‘bash-up’ someone at the end of it. The people in the conference room are most of the time oblivious to those logged in online. It is difficult to hear what is being said with all the side talk and banter that happens with in person gatherings. Rather than being included, the WFH tribe who join a mash-up or hybrid meeting end up feeling even more isolated. I am sure we will learn how to do this better with time and practice. For now, I find an either or approach is better. Either all of us are in a physical meeting together or we all log into our individual devices and have a virtual meeting if some cannot be present.

A few weeks ago, I ran a poll to try and find out how people are managing their hybrid meeting time. The results are pretty clear. We are still trying to figure it out – 44% of the respondents said just go with the flow, 32% felt trying to set aside 1-2 days a week for in person meetings was a good formula, while 13 % still felt an online only approach was working better for them. The votes in favour of three days a week for in person meetings were trailing at 11%.

The serendipity of in-person meetings is powerful stuff. It is hard to get back into work clothes and plough through traffic. But it is worth it. The energy exchange that in-person meetings provide is incredible. This energy is transformative and facilitates growth and expansion at the intersection of ideas and intent. Get out there. Keep your mask on but unmask the real you. In that vulnerability and with that energetic exchange there is magic waiting to happen. Let people see you. Hear you. Know you. And you will find your space. Turn your ‘meeting in person’ mode on and plug into the power of that energy. A meeting of minds can only happen if we try to meet.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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