Virtual vs in person meetings

Yesterday I arrived in Buenos Aires and attended meetings in the afternoon with a relatively new contractor who started with us in January to cover for the maternity leave of another employee. We started things off with a meeting at one of our clinical research sites, a well-known cardiovascular specialty center that is also a teaching hospital. Two prominent physicians met with us, along with their medical fellow (who does most of the actual work of entering patient data).

When I make an appearance now and then and travel here from far away, these physicians like to “talk research” with me and present ideas they have about new therapies and studies in which they enroll patients. It is an engaging and interesting discussion and I really enjoy the enthusiasm of these fellow researchers. They ask hard questions! Fortunately I was on my game, even after only 4 hours of sleep on the plane the previous night.

After the site visit, my contractor and I sat to have a late lunch, since I had skipped that in favor of getting to the site visit on time. We had time to visit and get to know each other in a casual environment. I learned more about her career path in this field. We have both been in clinical research for 11 years, and we both entered though a “side door” not knowing the field existed prior to entering.

Puerto Madero - view from hotel
View from my hotel in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

I work with an international team, with all of my direct reports living in other countries. We spend a lot of time on conference calls, corresponding via email and doing a lot of what I think of as virtual, rather than real-time communication. It is nice that electronic tools give us the flexibility to work remotely when necessary, and to come together as a team for our monthly operations meetings, for example.

I believe there is NO substitute for some old-fashioned, face-to-face, trust-building time with your coworkers. None at all. Video-conferencing can be helpful, and I am glad it exists. Looking people in the eye, and getting to absorb their gestures and body language is simply irreplaceable, especially when there may be language barriers.

My Spanish has improved greatly in the 11 years I have worked in a Latin American division, without question. But it still is my second language, not my first. Being able to know with real-time feedback whether communication is understood, or whether there is a gap, is SO much easier in person. It is also more relaxing, and you may not feel like you are “on stage” the way I sometimes do when I’m on video-conference.

For this reason, as well as many other cultural factors that are probably relevant to trust-building in Latino cultures, it is very important for me to have in person meetings to set the foundation for trust. There is something irreplaceable about real human contact, and there are certain messages that are easier to deliver in person. For this reason, even though travel makes me a bit weary, it is always worthwhile to make the journey.

Cheers, peeps! Happy Friday!

 

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