Rising gas prices, airline cutbacks, canceled and delayed flights, skyrocketing travel costs … these are just a few of the challenges facing businesses today. As a result, more and more companies are looking for ways to eliminate or at least greatly reduce travel expenses and they’re re-examining how they’ll conduct meetings in the future.
Trying to eliminate meeting expenses is not a new concept for business. After 9/11, the airlines temporarily shut down. When the airports reopened, many people were afraid to fly. In response, companies rushed to try virtual meetings – namely video conferencing and Web conferencing – in an attempt to save time and money. But the tools available had limitations. On a personal PC, video conferencing was slow due to low bandwidth speeds that made the video fuzzy. High-quality systems were confined to a few video conferencing rooms, which were always booked. Web conferencing, using a combination of audio, text messaging and PowerPoint, was useful but limited. Additionally, people tended to overreact and do all meetings virtually.
Since no one had “meeting guidelines” in place, companies learned some hard lessons – that there are times when you actually need to see someone face to face, there are times when an audio conference will do, and there are times when an e-mail is perfectly fine. With greatly diminished meeting outcomes due to the lack of guidelines, video conferencing and Web conferencing went back to playing a minor role as companies reverted to traveling for their meeting needs.
Fortunately, people didn’t completely abandon video and Web conferencing. Companies use video and Web conferencing today more than ever before because they discovered the technology. Now it’s time for corporate America to step it up a notch and use the new meeting technology to not only save costs, but also to build relationships.
The Future of Relationships
The challenge today is that many companies are going into crisis mode. Because air travel and gas costs are high, they’re using video and Web conferencing, as well as the new high-end videoconferencing called telepresence offered by Cisco and HP, to save travel money. However, if their only motivation is to save money on travel, rather than the more important goal of enhancing communication and collaboration throughout the enterprise, then they’re simply creating another fad. Video conferencing has evolved tremendously over the past few years, and companies need to use the technology of today to pave the path to future profits, all of which hinge on relationships.
To add fuel to the fire is the fact that rising gas prices and travel costs are not cyclical this time; they’re permanent. Major social changes are taking place worldwide in such places as China and India, and the increased global energy consumption affects everyone. In other words, fuel costs will fluctuate but will not go back to the low levels we once enjoyed. Therefore, smart companies are changing how they think about meetings and the new video conferencing technology, and they’re realizing that it offers business something more powerful than they’ve had in the past. These companies are thinking in terms of “visual communications” rather than simply video and Web conferencing.
Visual communications heighten the bond you have with someone when you cannot see them face to face. It’s about adding dimension to the communication. There’s a reason why you shake someone’s hand when you meet them: The more senses you involve, the higher the connection. Those companies that can enhance their communication, both internally and externally, are the ones who can cause change faster and stay competitive longer.
How to Make Visual Communications Work
Before you mandate that video conferencing be the only way of conducing meetings, consider the following principles of visual communications.
Let the Meeting Goal Determine the Role of Technology
The future of business includes an interdependent world that generates increasing quantities of data, information, knowledge and wisdom that companies need to communicate. The key is to develop guidelines for determining what type of meeting to have. To do this, you must look at the meeting’s goal.
One of the traps people fall into when planning a meeting is looking at business goals instead of human/emotional goals. Therefore, before you plan any meeting, ask yourself, “What is this meeting’s goal? Is it to inform, motivate, inspire, persuade, influence, sell, gain trust, negotiate, gain respect, establish new relationships, strengthen existing relationships, share information, share knowledge and experiences, gain credibility, change how people think, solve a problem, determine a strategy, or simply create dialog?” Thinking about the goal for the meeting in this way makes it easier to decide what type of meeting will be best and what technology is most appropriate.
Once you know your meeting’s goal, use the following guidelines.
Despite the current conditions of gas prices, transportation costs and airline cuts, the need to meet, share knowledge and develop relationships will continue. Therefore, successful meetings will depend on your ability to master the concept of visual communications and develop guidelines that leverage both old and new tools to build trusting relationships that foster greater communication, collaboration and community.
About the author:
Daniel Burrus is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research and author of six books, including the highly acclaimed “Technotrends.” Over the past two decades he has established a worldwide reputation for his exceptional record of accurately predicting the future of technological change and its direct impact on the business world. Dan monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. For more information, visit www.burrus.com.