Hybrid meetings offer the best of both worlds

Author
Ian Bell
Executive Director of Bath Chamber of Commerce and Initiative | Business West
9th September 2021

September will be a red letter month for members of the Initiative as we meet face to face for the first time in more than eighteen months. But we’ll also be offering people the chance to attend virtually if they feel more comfortable doing that.

I suspect many businesses and organisations will be grappling with the same conundrum of being concerned about keeping people safe and comfortable, whilst yearning for the natural human need for social contact.

We’ve kept in touch with members with frequent Zoom meetings. They have been effective at allowing us to maintain an excellent level of contact, exchanging information and sharing experiences. We’re fortunate that members largely already knew one another but Zoom meetings don’t lend themselves to much in the way of casual chit chat so developing friendships has certainly been a challenge.

The solution for the future will almost certainly be a mix of face to face and virtual meetings. Some people have said the Zoom option is actually better than being physically together in some cases. There’s the time and cost saving for a start, and if the meeting is purely to undertake specific items of business then it can be done efficiently on screen, especially if the group involved is not too large.

On the other hand, if it’s a more creative process there’s nothing like having people in the same room. Sometimes an unexpected remark can have a big impact which would almost certainly have been lost in the maze of a Zoom screen. It’s also more fun and much better when you can see someone’s face and appreciate their tone of voice – not so easy to do via a non-personal system such as e-mail.

We’re certainly looking forward to a rare chance to get together and grateful to the University of Bath for hosting us, socially distanced in their Council Chamber. We’ll have a chance to chew over a meaty agenda, including hearing about the University’s Strategic Plan, from Deputy Council Leader Sarah Warren about activity on the green front and we’ll be getting our heads around the latest revision of the Local Plan for the District, and especially changes which will affect transport provision.

It might feel a bit strange to be getting together in person but I think we’ll appreciate the experience all the more.

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