In recent months, due to special circumstances, almost all meetings and discussions have been held virtually; But even before the coronavirus epidemic, virtual negotiation and face-to-face meetings were on the rise for a variety of reasons, including ease and efficiency. Group video calls, low-cost online meetings, and e-mail have all become effective ways to keep teams together and negotiate with their peers at other companies. However, what do the researches in this field tell us? Are these virtual meetings more cost-effective for the parties than face-to-face meetings or not? In the following, we intend to find an answer to this important question by looking at the scientific facts.
Disadvantages of Virtual Negotiation
First we start with the disadvantages of virtual negotiation and in-person meetings:
Virtual negotiation causes the parties, in addition to feeling less trust in each other, to achieve poorer objective results. Also, an analysis conducted in 2002 shows that group decision-making is less efficient and more satisfying and takes longer when the groups involved do not have face-to-face communication.
The level of collaboration decreases when we use email – which is the introverts’ favorite tool in case of disagreement. Perhaps the reason for this is the less restraint we feel in expressing dissatisfaction and negative comments in the email. This method also increases the likelihood of misunderstanding. Research shows that we tend to assume that the audience understands our message correctly and completely, but this is not the case. Another study conducted in 2019 showed that we are not very good at understanding the feelings of others in the email environment.
Interestingly, a review of 43 studies in this area showed that women were less cooperative in a virtual meeting or negotiation than in a face-to-face meeting, while men did not change much. This may be due to the fact that women feel less need to show dependence or maintain politeness in such situations; But this does not mean that inefficient negotiation is inefficient or unjustifiable, because research shows that we can increase the quality and success of in-person meetings by following some tips.
We tend to think that our recipient understands our email message correctly and completely, but this is not the case.
Planning for a successful virtual negotiation
When preparing for a virtual negotiation, you can get better results by considering these points:
1. Make specific plans for group members
Video sessions attended by four or more people may go off course quickly. Ask these questions: Who starts the meeting? Who submits the proposal? Who answers the questions? Who explains the next steps? How do we communicate with each other offline?
2. Identify and practice offline communication methods
We have all heard nasty stories from “private” messages sent to all members of the meeting by mistake. To prevent this from happening, it is best to use separate hardware or software for messaging; For example, if you use a computer to engage in virtual conversation, use a messenger on your smartphone to communicate with groups.
3. Keep messages short
It is very important to exchange messages with all groups during a virtual negotiation; But the results of a study showed that doing several things at the same time on the phone during virtual negotiation reduces performance and also makes a person seem unprofessional and unreliable. Summarizing relationships with colleagues during virtual negotiation is a value.
4. The better the video call, the bigger the image
Researchers have found that virtual video conferencing works better than email or text messaging. Also, people who use a large computer monitor get better results than those who attend a meeting using small screens. The easier it is for you to see the other person, the more important your brain will be.
5. Short and sweet
Video or phone conferences, in addition to being a “richer” environment than email or text messaging, also engage your mind more. Our brains are predictive machines, so we have to put a lot of effort into understanding gaps, technical problems, time lag, and other video calling difficulties. Short, regular video chats can get the maximum attention of both parties.
To run a successful virtual negotiation
These tips can help you better execute a virtual negotiation session:
1. Break the ice first
Spending the first few minutes of the session warming up with the audience and getting a little more familiar prepares the space for effective interaction. Research by Michael Morris et al. Has shown that even in virtual email negotiations, spending time warming up with the other party can lead to better economic and social outcomes. Another study found that starting a virtual conversation with a joke, along with a better economic outcome, makes the parties feel more comfortable. Having a personal relationship with the audience, especially during coronary stress and quarantine, has a significant impact on the end result.
2. Clarify assumptions and limitations
Virtual negotiation sessions usually do not have a specific starting point, as people may enter the session at different times. Remember to explain the general timing and goals of the meeting to the whole audience after a little smile and initial friendly chat. This way, if one of the key members is to leave the meeting earlier, you can reset the meeting accordingly.
3. Do not see yourself!
Many people experience distractions or annoying and negative thoughts about themselves when they see their image during a video call. Closing your view in the meeting can help solve this problem.
In-person or online? This is the problem
Of course, nothing can replace the rich environment of face-to-face interaction; But there is no better way as long as we have to live in the stress of quarantine and social isolation. Keep in mind that if implemented and used properly, new technologies will increase the productivity and effectiveness of virtual negotiation and face-to-face meetings.