Virtual meetings

With the global nature of the world economy, business travel has increased significantly over the last decade and, despite the set-back of the current recession, the forecast is for it to grow still further.

For those who travel infrequently, international travel can be exciting and enjoyable. But for those that have to do it on a regular basis, it is often a wearisome chore that is both time-consuming and stressful.

If you do travel on business it is likely you will use technology to stay in touch with your family, friends and colleagues, but do you take enough advantage of it to avoid unnecessary travel in the first place?

Of course in some situations there is no substitute for face to face meetings. In communication there are the words, the music (tone and dynamics of voice) and the dance (body language) – and communications experts tell us that the dance accounts for 60% of the meaning of conversation. It’s hard, for example, to imagine a conflict resolution meeting or complex negotiation being very effective if undertaken remotely.

But for many other types of meeting modern technology offers a viable alternative to travel.

I have recently taken to using a web conferencing tool for some international meetings. The tool allows for shared display of presentations, shared editing of documents, video image display, instant messaging, audience surveys and questionnaires, as well as audio/visual conferencing – all rolled into one package.

Such facilities not only allow for a comprehensive exchange of ideas and information, but provide a reasonably rich communications experience – far more engaging than a pure audio conference.

The usefulness of this technology was brought home to me a few months ago on a day when we had heavy snowfall in the south of England. I had set out for the airport only to have to turn back after an hour because the taxi couldn’t make it up a hill (the driver had even asked me to get out and push!). I got back home eventually and had a web conference instead. It was a productive and effective meeting with two people that I already knew. Afterwards I thought to myself; ‘why didn’t we arrange it like this in the first place?’

Used appropriately, web conferencing can save you time, money and stress. Why not give it a go?


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