Virtual and hybrid events are increasingly becoming the hottest topic in the meeting industry, primarily due to the convergence of technology and a weak economy. Even with the economy recovering, the idea of holding a meeting online is sometimes what is best for a company's pocketbook. But what other criteria should determine if a meeting is held face-to-face or virtually?
According to recent research at the University of Texas in Austin, one major determining factor in the success of a virtual meeting is distance, primarily the perception of how far participates are from one another.
"We examined the effects of negotiating non-face-to-face with someone that is physically nearby versus faraway on integrative (mutually beneﬁcial) agreements," wrote psychologist Marlone D. Henderson in the study's abstract. "Across Studies 1 and 2, we found that individuals who negotiated with another person that they believed was physically faraway (several thousand feet away) rather than nearby (a few feet away) attained more integrative agreements (higher joint outcome, more Pareto efﬁcient agreements). In Study 3, we found that the effect of different magnitudes of physical distance between negotiators on integrative agreements depended on negotiators' construal level: individuals who negotiated with another person who was purportedly farther away achieved more integrative agreements when their level of construal was not constrained, but had no effect when they adopted a high-level of construal."
Henderson writes that it may not always be possible for negotiators to create a large amount of distance between each other.
"However, individuals may have more control over when they can initiate a negotiation, and our ﬁndings imply that negotiators might beneﬁt from waiting until circumstances create a large amount of distance between them before they start negotiating," Henderson wrote.
Cultures are incorporating increased physical distance, Henderson goes on to write, into fundamental aspects of human interaction, including distant learning and education, distant therapy and treatment and distant political participation.
"Critically, social conﬂict can arise in any of these areas," Henderson wrote. "The current research helps to understand whether increased geographical distance offers the potential to facilitate social harmony or magnify the social ills of our society, and represents the beginning of a systematic investigation of such issues."