Email or Online Meeting? A Resource Guide for Business Communications

Woman talking on the phone and looking at a laptop

Should you email stakeholders or schedule a meeting?

Hosting remote meetings can generate lots of uncertainty. While no one wants to be responsible for a “meeting that could have been an email,” it’s also clear in business that we need meetings to keep everyone up to date, set performance expectations and provide a forum for questions and feedback.

To be clear, the average meeting host must choose between at least four platforms when communicating; especially now that unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is becoming a popular way for companies to centralize their operations technology stack.

Here is our guide on how to use the most common business communications platforms:

1. Chat Application

Chat applications allow the user to instantly send messages to other users. At this point, chat apps are standard features of unified communications packages, with most white-collar workers having used at least one in their professional environment. This form of communication is ideal for issues that can be quickly communicated and resolved.

One strength of chat apps is that they can be used for synchronous or asynchronous communication. For example, if you send “When you have a minute, can we review the customer requirements for this project?” Your colleague can respond immediately or wait until they’re out of their meeting.

2. Email

Email is now a ubiquitous part of business communications. Equipped with helpful filing and sorting features, email is a great communications option when you think you might need to refer to a past conversation at a future time. An email thread is also a great way to catch up a new team member on an ongoing discussion or challenge.

Since emails can be any length, they are also a good choice for communications where you need to explain a complex issue and receive a similarly complex response.

Another advantage of email is that you can send it to as many people as you want. For example, if you are sending an introduction email to a new client and to your own team that will be working on their project, you can include every stakeholder without exhausting the limits of your email.

The biggest disadvantage of email is that you have no guarantee of a quick response. In fact, it is a common practice for some professionals to only check their emails at the beginning and end of the day, meaning that email is not ideal for timebound or emergency communications. If you require an immediate response, you should try a call or instant message.

3. Telephone Call or Voice Call

We recommend scheduling a telephone or voice call when you need immediate action or confirmation on an issue. For example, if you are signing a contract but notice a clause is out of place, calling your representative to discuss your concern can help resolve the issue without affecting your project timeline.

Conference calls also work best when the group of stakeholders is small (fewer than 5 people). Without visual cues indicating who is talking, participants may have a harder time knowing when it’s their turn to talk and when to give colleagues the floor.

If your potential meeting has a handful of stakeholders who are largely unfamiliar with each other, you may want to schedule a video call.

4. Video Call

Video calls are the next best thing to being face-to-face with a person or group. Many video call apps make it easy to know who is speaking, labeling speakers, and rotating active participants. These features improve the user experience even when many stakeholders are present.

When using a video call, it’s easy for everyone to get on the same page regarding a project and address any questions or comments, all at the same time. Another advantage to video conferencing is the unspoken cues, like body language and facial expression. This makes video calls the ideal medium for a first-time meeting with a new client.

You can avoid wasting your colleagues’ time by intentionally choosing the communications tool that makes the most sense for the number of stakeholders you need to include and the type of information or feedback that you need to share. Use this roadmap to help you navigate the potentially complex landscape of remote work.

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By Cynthia Kazanis July 2, 2020 .