Due to COVID-19, most meetings of IFIs are now being held virtually including Shariah Board meetings. After discussing the topic with my peers working in Shariah departments of various IFIs, in this short post, I will list some of the possible pros and cons of meetings held by distance and conclude with what I personally prefer.
- Meetings held virtually are easier to arrange at short notice as the logistical requirements are not as complex e.g. venue bookings, refreshments etc.
- Even if the participants are abroad, they can easily attend from wherever they are in the world especially if they have access to a good internet connection.
- Health precautions as participants will not be physically next to one another, therefore reducing the risk of being exposed to Corona or any other infectious disease.
- There is no need for all participants to commute when the meeting is held virtually and they can attend from the comfort of their home, office etc.
- The meeting can be more focused.
- The meeting can be easily recorded if needed and subsequently referred to in future if necessary.
- Technical glitches, as there is no guarantee that on the day of the meeting, the software used would be functioning well or that there are no internet connection issues for any of the participants. This could be an even bigger issue for example if the one affected is the Chairman of the Shariah board. Therefore, it is important to have alternative backup arrangements in place that can be used in such an event.
- Lack of Face to Face interaction. Although you can see the other participants on your screen, it is still not the same as meeting people face to face. This would be felt more in a meeting where due to connection issues, or for any other reason, video is not used and the meeting is limited to voice.
- Meeting management, the larger the number of participants the more difficult the management of the virtual meeting, this is because unlike face to face meetings, it is sometimes difficult to know when is the right time to talk, especially if there is a technical lag such as some participants experiencing a slow internet connection.
- Technical discussions. It can be much easier to discuss and explain complex technical topics when being face to face as opposed to being online.
- Time differences can be an issue as if the participants are joining from different time zones it maybe difficult to find an appropriate time for everyone.
While there are definitely pros to having meetings held by distance, my personal preference is for face to face meetings. I prefer having people in front of me when discussing complex topics and feel that the interaction is more enjoyable, although I completely understand that some may disagree and prefer virtual meetings as it is something based on personal preferences.