17 Mar 20

COVID-19: 10 Tips for Safe Face-to-Face Meetings

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Employers and workers are looking at ways to control the spread of COVID-19. Banning face-to-face meetings and turning to virtual conferencing is one of them.

If not already in place, now is the time for the fleet and mobility industry to develop policies and strategies around meetings and digital conferencing. Right now the advice is to avoid face-to-face meetings altogether. Virtual meetings can be highly effective using digital apps.

When only face-to-face meetings will do

Coronavirus or not, however, there are times and circumstances in which only face-to-face meetings will do.

  • Body language – legal interviews, employment tribunals – any circumstance in which being able to assess body language is important.
  • Brainstorming – virtual meetings are less effective in facilitating any creative-type processes, such as brainstorming ideas.
  • Job interviews – job interviews can be conducted virtually but shouldn’t if they are for key, strategic roles where a candidate’s whole persona has to be assessed.
  • Having difficult conversations – whether with clients, employees or colleagues, difficult conversations should always be carried out face-to-face as a matter of respect and goodwill.
  • Relationship building – relationship building with important clients, particularly in the early days, should be carried out face-to-face.

How to hold safe face-to-face meetings

During the pandemic, it may be possible to politely postpone the above but if meeting in person is the only option, here are 10 tips that will help you do it safely:

  1. No handshaking – other than eye-contact and a smile, use non-physical-contact methods of greeting.
  2. Masks or no masks? The World Health Organisation advises that masks are only necessary if people are unwell or caring for someone who’s unwell. If a team member is unwell, they should be sent home and not attend the meeting.
  3. Create physical space - meet in large, ventilated rooms – even if there are only a few people – leave at least one chair between each person.
  4. Air-conditioning off – some experts advise against the use of air-conditioning, others say it’s okay. In light of this confusion, it’s best not to use it. Ventilate by opening windows and doors.
  5. Wash hands – encourage hand washing before meeting.
  6. Sanitise hands – have plenty of hand sanitiser at the door.
  7. Coughs and sneezes - have plenty of tissues on hand to catch coughs and sneezes and bin them straight away.
  8. Disinfect surfaces – doorknobs and handles, tables, chairs, desks, handrails, hardware (keyboards, telephones, AV equipment).
  9. Ban food sharing – no biscuits or communal plates of sandwiches at meetings. Encourage attendees to bring their own refreshments.
  10. Cut down on paper – prompt everyone to bring their own laptop or tablet to the meeting and use team software apps to share projects and documents rather than print-outs.

Online meetings and digital conferencing apps

The cost and complexity of digital meetings and conferencing system has all but gone. Platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google’s G Suite apps, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex are affordable for all sizes of business – from sole-traders to multinationals. They can all be used to host one-on-one and large group meetings. Some offer small group meetings (fewer than five participants) for free. Many offer free trials, messaging, recording facilities and office application integration.

Here are some elements to bear in mind when selecting the right system for your business:

  • Limits on video feeds (some conferencing systems put limits on video feeds so it’s best to find out before you buy).
  • Ease of use.
  • Types of meetings supported (presentations, lectures, open forums, Q&As etc.).
  • Mobile support.
  • Video and Audio recording capability.
  • Screen sharing.
  • Application integration (Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs etc.)
  • Customer Support.

Love them or loath them, meetings are an essential part of business and can be highly productive when carried out safely and appropriately.

Image copyright: Shutterstock

Authored by: Alison Pittaway