What were they thinking?

Virtual meetings such as the ones enabled by the technology behind Zoom, Teams and Skype have proved their worth during lockdown, and if this was a trial for the effectiveness of online collaboration tools they would have passed with flying colours. Cheap and easy to use we know that for conducting meetings, interviews, debates and pure entertainment they are a terrific substitute for the real thing. 

But let’s not forget what that real thing is.  

Even if the internet connection is robust, the sound quality impeccable, the screen perfectly-focused and contributors await their turn to speak with disciplined restraint there is a ‘connection’ missing that you only get from a live face-to-face encounter.  You miss out on nuance.  You miss the tell-tale signs from body-language.  It is harder to gauge the mood and discern genuine reaction to the way issues are being discussed. How do you know if you’re holding the room? Is that a wry smile, a genuine grin or a grimace through gritted teeth? Did you just miss a nod of affirmation or a raised eyebrow which in a live meeting could have been a conspiratorial wink to somebody across the table? 

In short – what were they all thinking?

Mona Lisa as portrayed by Leonardo da Vinci is apparently smiling about something but opinion is divided as to whether the mood is tinged with melancholy, regret, mirth or something else. The traditional interpretation is that her countenance is ‘enigmatic’ which tells us very little, and much as with a screen-grab from a Zoom meeting we’re never going to be any the wiser.  The only way we’d ever know for sure is to have asked the artist and the chances are he’d have wanted us to make up our own minds in any case.        

My point is this:  No matter how efficient the technology there’ll still be a premium placed on face-to-face meetings, and wherever practically possible this is how it should be no matter how the workplace is changing in terms of flexibility and trends for working from home.  It’s no different when it comes to recruitment, so at the same time as preparing for interviews over a phone line or an internet connection your ultimate test could be a live encounter, where presentation skills and body-language can remove all trace of ‘enigma’.   

So, unlike the girl in the portrait, you will have to think about your shoes too.

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