On why virtual meetings are not the future

Some legal correspondents have expressed the view that the current use of remote meetings technology will pave the way for virtual commitee meetings in the future. I doubt it !

The posts I have read are from private sector lawyers who, I suspect, do not actually advise planning committees. Sorry, but it's all theory.  I have advised various committees since 1982 as they say, up and down the country. I currently provide training to both members and officers. Based on this, I doubt it !

I have a number of concerns, but my main one is that my experience of remote meetings is that of a screenful of disembodied heads.  This has its uses, but I cannot see that members will be keen on losing their sense of theatre in front of a live audience. Particularly, when elections are coming up.

The other problem is that of body language.  Those who are keen to sell management courses often say that up to 70% of communication is via body language, as opposed to speech. As is often the case, this is rubbish. But human beings have evolved so that non verbal signals are important. There is only so much that an animated head shot can convey and so it is difficult to see why members would wish to prefer a less effective means of communication simply because it is trendy.

There is, also, the problem of keeping the audience's attention. Those who lecture for a living will know that a degree of animation in the speaker is always welcome. I always put the flip chart on the opposite side of the room from my chosen speaking spot in order to generate movement and, hopefully, to keep things lively. One of my delegates once said "I know why you do that". Far be it that anyone would nod off during a committee meeting, but a bit of arm waving does no harm when it comes to staving off boredom in a meeting that started at 6pm and is still rumbling on at 10pm.

It might be that someone will come up with holographic virual meeting al la Startrek, but, until then, I suspect that members will prefer to avoid out of body experiences in the virtual universe !


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