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Video killed the in-person meeting?

Few people watch ‘videos’ anymore – they watch DVDs, much in the same way that CDs have made tape cassettes largely redundant. There is, however, one area in the business world in which ‘video’ is a modernising force – and that’s meetings.

Video conferencing offers companies a number of benefits, but there are also drawbacks associated with inappropriately staging meetings in this way.

The gains, however, are manifold. For instance, large companies with offices in multiple locations or firms with geographically dispersed clients can significantly cut down on travel time and expense, while still enjoying the chance to share ideas, strengthen relationships, and all the other benefits of ‘meeting’ each other.

Additionally, the extent to which a video call offers benefits over a telephone call has been demonstrated by research – the average attention span on a video call is 35 minutes, compared to just 23 minutes on a telephone call.

Furthermore, beyond the sheer productivity gains associated with cutting unnecessary journeys, many businesses, with their increasing focus on demonstrating CSR commitments, will benefit from the chance to underscore their efforts in this area by staging meetings in the least polluting way possible.

Indeed, video conferencing has been shown to be the future in a number of fields, including medicine, with doctors advising each other across continents, while future developments include a robotic doctor patrolling hospital wards and monitoring patients via video conference. It may be that patients initially find this unnerving – new technology can take some getting used to and this might explain why video conferences don’t currently facilitate the majority of meetings in the corporate world.

It should be noted, however, that video conferences don’t entirely replace in-person meetings. New business pitches are likely to remain face-to-face meetings. Firstly, because the prospective supplier will want to demonstrate suitable commitment and this often involves willingness to travel to the prospective client. Moreover, in terms of gaining insight into working chemistry, an in-person interaction at the very least offers perceived advantages.

Applied intelligently, on a case-by-case basis, there’s little doubt that video conferencing can prove very effective for businesses, offering, productivity, cost and environmental benefits.

While meeting in person may never be considered as outmoded as the video cassette, it’s likely that companies that never use video conferencing will be soon appear as stuck in a bygone era as someone without a DVD player.