Many of us are back to the office but one lockdown habit persists: the virtual meeting.
My calendar is full of Zoom invites, Teams meetings, and Google Hangouts. None seems to happen without some sort of technical hitch or connection error. Each platform has its unique frustrations. To butcher Tolstoy: All happy meetings are alike, but each virtual meeting is unhappy in its own way.
I exaggerate of course. In some cases, I can understand the point of a virtual meeting. If people are working remotely - as many are these days - then a webcam chat can be the next best thing to a casual coffee. But virtual meetings seem to be becoming the norm for every sort of interaction. People are intent on setting up an online rendezvous when a phone call would do.
For a journalist, speaking to someone directly is always the most straightforward way to report a story. A phone call is the easiest way to do that. On a virtual meeting, there are often far too many people on the call seemingly doing very little. Something about the format leads to rambling introductions and small talk. Jittery internet connections can be far less reliable than a cell network. Phone calls do away with all of that rubbish.
It seems futile to wish away virtual meetings altogether. Clearly they are here to stay. But a humble plea: next time you’re arranging a remote meeting, consider if it could just be done in a phone call. My bet is most of the time you’ll realise it could.