Meetings & Your Brain

The Nice Thing About Meetings Is…

Face-to-face meetings create camaraderie and put attendees on their best behavior.

Do face-to-face meetings make people nicer? That’s one way of looking at an article about the frequently vicious nature of anonymous Internet comments that was published in The New York Times the other day. What really jumped out at me was a quote from Kathleen Taylor, author of Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain:

“We’re evolved to be face-to-face creatures. We developed to have constant feedback from others, telling us if it was O.K. to be saying what we’re saying. On the Internet, you get nothing, no body language, no gesture. So you get this feeling of unlimited power because there is nothing stopping you, no instant feedback.”

It’s similar to what Richard D. Arvey, Ph.D., head of the Department of Management and Organization at the National University of Singapore, wrote in a recent Point/Counterpoint column for Convene about whether virtual events are an acceptable substitute for face-to-face meetings (digital version here, registration required; text-only version here):

Real-time, face-to-face interactions also allow us to develop strong relationships, obligations, and social identities that are often hidden in virtual environments. Moreover, face-to-face meetings set up expectations regarding future obligations, social support, and opportunities.

Are in-person meetings inherently more civil than pretty much anything that happens online? Is there anything you do at your face-to-face events to ensure that? Or by dint of seeing each other in the flesh, do your attendees always behave themselves — even when they disagree?

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.