“Meetings Meetings Virtual Meetings” – Egos and Airmiles

Posted on : 08-07-2010 | By : richard.gale | In : General News

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How many times have we heard the people with the signs in Oxford Street ‘the end of business travel is nigh’? OK not many times but the point is for the last 30 years people have been saying that telephones then email, then video then webex etc will replace face to face meetings and it still hasn’t happened. Even the recent volcanic explosions in Iceland made only a short term impact – I suspect next time something similar happens there will not be a total closedown of the airline industry in the area either.

There has been a decline in business travel lately but this is more likely to be a reflection of the recession than technology.

There is a drive towards reducing our carbon tracks and virtual meetings can make a big difference when set against air or other forms of travel.

So why is getting up at some unearthly hour to be transported at high speed in a deathtrap of a taxi, hanging around in an overwarm terminal and then being crammed into a metal box for a number of hours so attractive? Even though flying has been made routine and ordinary there is still a small element of glamour to it – on certain airlines anyway!

People do like meeting other people face to face. ‘Pressing the flesh’ can change formal to informal, alliances and even friendships can be forged which result in sales, improved productivity and successful outcomes.

Making the effort to physically go and visit can make an impression that this person is very important to you – their ego is massaged by the efforts you’ve made and – later – your ego can be too by telling people how much of a pain it is to get from say Peru to Mongolia with a 4 hour stop-off in Senegal.

The fact that airmiles you don’t have to pay for a flight or hotel on holiday may also help ease the pain.

So will the growing use of Cisco’s (pka Tandberg) Telepresence reduce business travel in the future? It depends on whether the human/softer factors are still important – the shared boardroom table is coming closer to people being in the same room but there is still a level of formality and end of meeting gossip and catch-ups with individuals are less likely.

In other areas informal communication is both being made easier (e.g IM for chat) and more controlled (e.g. recording of IM for chat) so what next for meetings/conferencing?

3D is in use and will become a standard communication method Holograms are being trialled
Virtual reality must be on the way – this way, with the right equipment, you will really be able to look someone in the (virtual) eye and offer a firm handshake

Is the business travel industry worried? – not just yet – globalisation is becoming all pervasive, companies are giving wider and wider remit to their management, sales and support teams which require more remote travel and working. In addition the commitment of ‘going the extra (10,000) mile(s)’ still means a lot and provides remote teams with a real morale boost when a senior person makes the effort to go and see them.