“The future is virtual,” seems to be the conclusion many are reaching as a result of the pandemic. I don’t disagree–at least virtual meetings leveraging tools like Zoom, Teams, or the dozens of other tools, will be a large part of how we engage customers. (I actually prefer thinking the future is digital, which addresses the engagement process more broadly than video meetings.)

I suspect decades ago, people said, “The future is the telephone,” and the telephone has become an important part of how we engage others.

But we, still have a huge communication challenge/gap, the video based tools currently don’t address—or that we are overlooking.

We need to focus less on the technology, but more on human to human interaction. How do we work together to get things done?

It’s said that 93% of human communication is nonverbal. 7% is about what we say, the rest of it is how we say it–both our tone of voice and the myriad of body language, facial expressions, and other cues we get or give when we are speaking.

But it’s more complex than that. That data point focuses primarily on the speaker and how others might perceive the speaker. But what about the other communications that occur in meetings? The body language of each participant as they are listening to the speaker, the body language and other cues that others in the meeting are expressing.

In meetings, it’s common to “read” the room, looking at how people interact with each other, how they engage/disengage, and with who.

So much of what happens in the meeting and how we get things done isn’t in the content of the meeting itself, it’s in the sidebar conversations, in the nods and signals participants use with each other, in the conversations we have in breaks, getting coffee or at lunch.

In our meetings, we use all our senses, not just our voices and our images. We use our experience, instincts, our emotions. We value, in fact, crave, human to human interaction–not just the words each of us says to each other, but the experience of engaging with other people.

We already see data about mental health challenges, increases in physical illness, all attributable to the feelings of isolation people are experiencing through remote work.

Clearly, virtual tools and virtual meetings have an important place in helping us engage each other and our customers. But communication, engagement, work itself is far more than a video meeting.

Virtual is part of our future as salespeople, digital is critical to our and our customers’ futures. But people and human to human communications are core to who we are, how we engage, and how we work. We can’t ignore this.