F2F vs. Digital Communication: Pros, Cons, and When to Use Each
In the business world, there’s a general understanding that while digital communication is powerful, it should never replace face-to-face (F2F) conversations.
That said, you can search Google right now and find thousands of articles that discuss how digital communication is recognized as the primary method of interaction for business leaders today.
How do you balance these two things, then—without sacrificing clarity or staying up-to-date? While there is a time and place for both methods of communication, each has its pros and cons.
Digital communication is convenient. Written digital communication (email, SMS, or other messaging platforms) offers an immediate method of expression, while also generating a record of the conversation for later reference. No more need to ask people to repeat themselves!
Not to mention how challenging in-person dialogue can be in terms of schedule availability and distance between parties. In today’s distributed workplaces, team proximity is becoming more and more of a luxury.
That said, it’s often hard to get face-time with a colleague even when you’re in the same office, especially if they’re more invested in answering emails or participating in lengthy teleconferences.
F2F communication is true human interaction, allowing people to interact, discuss issues thoroughly, and build synergy together.
Digital communication…is a poor substitute for the human interaction that people need to foster a more meaningful connection with others and build credibility, trust, and loyalty.
While it can be argued that digital communication achieves the same outcomes, it is a poor substitute for the human interaction that people need to foster a more meaningful connection with others and build credibility, trust, and loyalty—traits that are critical in the field of BRM.
In addition, non-verbal cues can be interpreted during real-life engagement to assess reactions to concepts and opinions, whereas digital communication is often impersonal.
Predisposed to brevity, text messages and emails frequently lack the personal element necessary for relationship-building—and while phone calls and teleconferences are less impersonal, they don’t allow for the interpretation of non-verbal cues and group dynamics. Even well-intentioned messages can be wrongly interpreted and cause miscommunication or even hard feelings.
In terms of efficiency, F2F and digital communications both have their benefits and disadvantages.
Digital interactions are considered efficient when messages, tasks, and requests are conveyed with clarity and acted upon appropriately. Conversely, an unclear, 20-message email thread only serves to confuse and frustrate everyone involved. Not to mention how email threads that spiral out of control are often better resolved in a 10-minute, in-person meeting!
F2F meetings can be energizing, collaborative, and productive when facilitated properly—but on the other hand, without strong leadership, F2F engagement can meander, get repetitive, and lack results. We’ve all been privy to discussions that go in circles with no apparent conclusion or end result.
Take care to strive for outcome-driven dialogue, whether it be in-person or online. In either case, clarity is key.
Through videochats, teleconferences, and WebEx, hybrid meetings expand the capacity of in-person meetings by connecting speakers with distant audiences and providing a virtual glimpse into the on-site event.
This advancement in virtual communication is evidence of the growing desire to embrace technology as a conduit to human interaction. Hybrid meetings offer benefits such as including remote presenters, reaching a broader audience, and promoting interaction between attendees.
Devote special attention to planning hybrid meetings so they are more than an in-person meeting with a teleconference unit on the table. How?
Hybrid meetings expand the capacity of in-person meetings by connecting speakers with distant audiences and providing a virtual glimpse into the on-site event.
First, ensure the meeting is structured to engage people in the room equal to those participating virtually.
Second, facilitate the dialogue so engagement is not exclusively dominated by the participants in the room—a common pain point for those participating from a distance.
This article examines the strengths and weaknesses of both F2F and digital communication. Regardless of the modality, how can you use this information to improve communication in your workplace today?
Cyndi Cossais is a life-long learner who pursues opportunities that enrich her diverse experience and skill set. With a passion for innovation and relationship-building, she has successfully led profit-driven ventures through complex and challenging times over the past 20+ years. As a leader of diverse, multi-stakeholder organizations, Cyndi genuinely enjoys the authentic relationships built along the road to delivering results. An alumna of the University of Waterloo (Economic Development) and Brock University (Adult Education), her motto about work and life is to “stay curious.” She currently works for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Health Services I&IT Cluster as an I&IT Senior Business Relationship Manager.
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