The days are getting longer and at times the sun is even shining. North East England is slowly slipping into what we know as summer, the days when we can go out without a coat. Despite official lines that the pandemic has been beaten, there are still plenty of people coming down with COVID. Both of these lead to one conclusion, if you can, you should meet outdoors.
It used to be that the English had a reputation for not eating outdoors. The cafe culture was somehow too continental. We’ve got over ourselves now and nearly all towns have some place where you can sit in the fresh air, drink coffee and eat whatever takes your fancy. It is only the weather that has held us back.
Last week I had three meetings, one after the other. We met outside, the first two at Blakes in Newcastle and the third at 1901 in Jesmond. Only for the first had we agreed to meet outside , if possible yet, having secured a good table it was a shame to move.
Good coffee and good company go to make a good meeting. They are pleasurable and redolent of the occasional time you would have lessons outside when you were at school. But are they as effective as their indoor cousins?
There are a few downsides. Al fresco dining is very weather dependent. Here you can be sitting in brilliant sunshine one minute only to be freezing cold the next. A decent ambient temperature makes things more conducive. Sunshine and screens don’t mix either. It is difficult to position your laptop in a way that you can see through the glare but of course I could alway take a notebook. Everything of mine is online however.
The biggest problem for me, however, is the continual distraction. There are always things happening, especially in a busy street cafe/ People go by, the majority are ordinary yet some are interesting and others odd. Motorbikes roar past, bus wheels squeal and people talk loudly into their phones. Keeping concentration is hard.
Taking these all into account, I’ve come to the conclusion that outdoor meetings are fine, but only if circumstances are right. Outside favours the more informal meeting where concepts can be talked about with only the odd action to be captured. Anything more formal and I am afraid that indoors is best.
Still it’s nice to have the choice in between April showers.