Ideal Outcomes

From Virtual to Reality: The Power of Presence

by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

There’s no doubt that the online tools all of us use all day every day can speed communication and project development—especially when so many of us work remotely or have hectic travel schedules. They’re a great asset to keep everyone in touch and on the same page. But nothing beats the magic of bringing everyone together in the same room, even if it’s just once a year. Virtual handshakes and high fives don’t compare with the real thing. It’s extremely hard to transmit the energy of a room full of colleagues through our computer screens.

I’ve been reflecting on the “power of presence” while planning for my team’s annual get-together and the transformative power of this in-person gathering in particular and face-to-face meetings in general.

Celebrating Success in Style

First things first, let’s talk about celebrations. Achievements, milestones, and successes are the lifeblood of a thriving company culture. They’re not just numbers on a report or items on a checklist; they’re stories of hard work, dedication, and teamwork. Gathering your team together gives these stories the stage they deserve. It’s one thing to send a congratulatory email; it’s another to share a toast, exchange smiles, and feel the collective pride in a room full of your colleagues. This tangible sense of accomplishment can boost morale like nothing else.

Building Real Connections

Virtual meetings have done wonders for maintaining day-to-day operations, but they often fall short in developing deep, personal connections. Face-to-face interactions have a unique way of breaking down barriers and building trust. Casual conversations over coffee, team-building activities, and shared meals allow employees to connect on a human level, beyond their professional roles. These interactions are the building blocks of strong, cohesive teams. They encourage open communication, understanding, and a sense of belonging.

Bridging the Cultural Divide

In a distributed workforce, employees come from diverse cultural backgrounds. This diversity is a strength, offering a wealth of perspectives and ideas. However, it also presents a challenge in maintaining a unified company culture. An annual gathering acts as a melting pot, where employees can immerse themselves in the company’s values, vision, and goals. It’s an opportunity to align everyone’s efforts and ensure that despite the miles between them, they’re all rowing in the same direction.

Inspiring Innovation and Collaboration

When people from different departments, roles, and countries come together, the cross-pollination of ideas can lead to unexpected breakthroughs and innovations. These gatherings can serve as incubators for new ideas, where casual conversations might spark the next big project or solve a problem that’s been on the backburner. Research has shown that in-person teams can generate significantly more ideas than their virtual counterparts. In one experiment at Stanford University, in-person participants generated between 15% and 20% more ideas, highlighting the creative advantage of physical presence. This increase in creativity was attributed to better observation and recall abilities in a shared physical space​​. Encouraging collaboration in this way can lead to more dynamic teams that are better equipped to tackle challenges and seize opportunities.

Connecting Everyone

Virtual meetings often lead to an unbalanced dynamic where more extroverted team members might take center stage and dominate discussions and it’s easy for the introverted folks to retreat into the background. In contrast, in-person settings provide a format where it’s easier to see and include everyone encouraging a more balanced and wide-ranging contribution.

Long-term Relationships

When you get to know people in a more personal setting you’re much more likely to forge a lasting bond. In a Harvard Business Review survey of 2,360 subscribers, 95% said that face-to-face meetings are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships, reflecting what many executives call the “high impact” of in-person communication.

Acknowledging and Rewarding Contributions

An annual meet-up is the perfect occasion to recognize and reward the contributions of team members. Whether it’s through awards, acknowledgments, or simply giving kudos, recognizing employees’ hard work in front of their peers is incredibly validating. It not only boosts the morale of the individuals recognized but also motivates the entire team to strive for excellence.

The Magic of Meeting Up

While technology has made it easier than ever to work across borders and time zones, there’s an undeniable value in coming together, in person, to celebrate, connect, and collaborate. These gatherings reinforce the idea that while we may be distributed, we’re not disconnected. We’re part of a community, a family, united by a common goal. So, let’s not underestimate the power of presence. After all, the heart of any company is its people, and bringing them together is a celebration of what makes your organization truly unique.

Bringing your geographically distributed team together once a year can strengthen your company culture, promote innovation, and celebrate your collective achievements. In our digital world, let’s remember the value of personal connection and the incredible impact it can have on our teams and our success. I can’t wait to get together with my entire team!