The Complex World of Virtual Negotiations


For complex contracts within the context of project-related activities, we are now interested in negotiation meetings that are partially virtual and partly face-to-face, and which are held in a virtual environment (construction projects, energy projects, oil and gas or water). However, the results presented below can be extrapolated to different types of agreements.

At the moment, negotiators are debating the advantages of virtual negotiation meetings as opposed to face-to-face negotiation meetings. How does this work in situations where part of the team is seated together and some critical individuals are separated by significant distance? The need for the proper virtual negotiation training program is essential there.

Features of holding virtual or online meetings

Virtual meetings are meetings that take place via the use of contemporary technology – in which individuals do not physically meet but instead connect via the internet. Ideally, this is done in a professional video conference room, though it can also be done through software platforms and even just a phone call in some cases.

To be sure, not being able to (really) look your rival in the eyes is a major disadvantage in this situation. As we all know, body language plays a crucial part in communication and interpersonal relationships.

Consequently, the usual advise of negotiation experts is that when the stakes are high, you should not be afraid to get out and have face-to-face discussions with other parties.

Furthermore, what about hybrid meetings (partially virtual, partially face-to-face)?

It may be difficult for your entire team to be present in a remote place for a variety of reasons, including a lack of time, a lack of travel documents (visa), a desire to save money, and so on.

It may appear to be a good idea for a member of your team to be physically present at a meeting. How can we accept that certain team members are just virtually present in certain situations? And when is it absolutely necessary to avoid doing so? Let’s take a look at both examples at the same time.

Negotiations can take place both virtually and in person.

Participating virtually in a discussion can be a smart idea in some situations

Some negotiators take on the role of experts. Perhaps these individuals do not consider themselves to be negotiators in the first place? Expertise in a particular topic area gives them the authority to speak about the issue. Taxation (taxes), financial matters (e.g. bank guarantees), insurance, and other such issues are examples of what is covered. They spend the majority of their time speaking with their colleagues (i.e. experts in the same fields). Respect is often accorded between them, and conversations tend to remain at a purely technical level, with the lead negotiators dealing with commercially sensitive issues such as risk allocation and risk allocation.