C-Suite Pegs In-Person Meetings as Essential

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in-person meetingsMore than three-quarters of business leaders say in-person internal meetings are more important now than ever.

Business leaders are recognizing the power of in-person meetings in increasing numbers these days now that hybrid working environments have become the new normal. While it’s popular among employees, working remotely also is causing disconnection between employees and adding to the growing plague of disconnection and loneliness among American workers.

The answer, according to 250 senior business leaders surveyed in Q1 2024 by meeting-technology firm Cvent and The Harris Poll, is in-person internal meetings.

“We’ve witnessed in-person meetings and events make a strong comeback over the last few years and wanted to understand what is driving the increasing investment in internal face-to-face experiences,” said Patrick Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Cvent. “These results show that with more dispersed workforces and the reduction of daily organic in-office connections, companies are increasingly bringing their people together through a combination of curated in-person and virtual experiences to build a more engaging, collaborative environment.”

In fact, more than three quarters (78%) of these business leaders say that in-person or face-to-face meetings are “absolutely necessary” or “very important” within their companies. While 94% said these meetings are vital to companies as they brought employees back to the office after the pandemic, they also recognize this is no flash-in-the-pan trend. Eighty-six percent say incorporating in-person meetings has been crucial to the success of their hybrid work model so far, and even more — 90% — peg internal face-to-face meetings as an important piece of the future workplace as hybrid workers seek more options for interacting with colleagues and internal teams.

This is because in-person internal meetings, when done in an impactful way, drive employee culture and engagement, say 95% of C-suite participants. At least 90% say impactful in-person meetings lead to improved productivity, employee innovation, retention rates and morale, while 71% say virtual meetings fall short in effectively engaging employees. In fact, 58% of those who have noted an improvement in employee management over the past three years attribute that success to replacing virtual meetings with face-to-face meetings or in-person touchpoints.

More than three-quarters, 78%, say they are building on that success by swapping out frequent virtual meetings for less frequent, but more impactful, in-person gatherings. A full 85% say their company is working on increasing their efforts to bring employees together to engage face to face, and 91% consider in-person meetings to be essential investments. In fact, 44% say their companies are encouraging more in-person internal meetings, and 41% are investing in in-person events.

These business leaders also believe their employees are on the same page, with about a third saying their employees agree that face-to-face meetings are “absolutely essential,” especially when it comes to networking. It’s everyone’s preferred format for everything from onboarding new employees (57%), town hall-type meetings (56%), team building (53%), professional development (51%) and one-on-ones (50%).

However, note the use of that key word “impactful.” These business leaders also say that, while the vast majority use some sort of metric to measure the success of their internal meetings — mainly employee satisfaction surveys and department or team-specific KPIs — 58% say their company struggles with determining the return on investment (ROI) of those meetings. Another 63% say that planning these meetings can be time-consuming.

To make these meetings less burdensome to plan, more impactful to attend and easier to quantify when it comes to ROI, execs are amping up their use of online meeting management tools, the survey found. They said using online event/meeting management tools help to increase employee engagement during the meeting (50%), improve attendee experience (48%) and promote higher attendance (47%), as well as save money (42% and make these internal events easier to manage (45%).

These C-suite execs also noted a generational difference, with in-person meetings being more popular with Gen X and older workers. More than half say they believe Gen Z workers prefer their internal meetings to be held virtually. They’re not quite as sure when it comes to Millennial preferences, where the respondents were split between the 44% who think Millennials prefer to meet in person and the 35% who think they’d rather meet virtually.

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