Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Advantages of Technology-Based Meetings

Last month, I wrote about the advantages of face-to-face meetings. In all fairness, I must point out that technology-based, or “virtual” meetings also have some advantages as well, especially in certain situations. Here are the main ones I have come across.

  • They save time.
  • They save money.
  • There is more flexibility in the “when and where” of the meeting.
  • Allow for multi-tasking and increased productivity.

Not having to travel to a meeting or conference, especially if it requires air, train, or extensive driving, certainly saves time. The time not spent on travel can be put to use in the office or at the job site working on other projects. It also saves on costs since you are not paying for transportation and, if the meeting requires overnight accommodations, it will save you the cost of a hotel stay, as well as meals and other incidental expenses.

In terms of flexibility for when and where the meeting is “held”, this really only makes a difference when the numbers attending the meeting are low. A Board meeting, for example, or a team meeting might be good candidates for making into virtual meetings. Conferences operate at a different level. Even if you were to make one into a virtual event, the sheer number of “attendees” reduces flexibility when considering “when”. As for the “where”, the participant does retain control over that – they could log into the event from work, home, or any location with the appropriate technology (i.e. a computer with internet access) – so I can see that as an advantage, if the participant is able to stay focused on the meeting…

The multi-tasking and increased productivity issues are, to me, a little harder to justify as being advantages. While people believe that they can multi-task, is that really the best way to participate in a meeting or conference? You only have so much mind-power available at any given time. Attempting to multi-task really means dividing your attention. If your attention is divided, how much of the information from the meeting are you really retaining?

I can see an argument for increased productivity being an advantage but that is mostly connected to the time saved by not traveling. Since it can be difficult to get serious work done while on the road, not traveling can increase bottom line productivity – but this seems to be more a function of the “It saves time” position than an advantage in its own right.

Each time an advance is made in virtual meetings technology, I see articles declaring the demise of the face-to-face meeting – and, yet, those meetings continue to happen. Virtual meetings are great for short meetings with few participants and limited agendas or goals. Face-to-face meetings are usually better when you are bringing large numbers of participants together for interactive sessions or networking. The reality is that there is room for both types of meetings in our industry and neither one can completely supplant the other – so keep your options open and find the one that is right for your event…

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises