Too Little Too Late: Airline Chases after TelePresence
In a further sign of trouble for the airline industry, British Airways recently announced the “Face of Opportunity” contest to rescue the high-margin business trip. Entrants can win a free trip to London (presumably in business class, though this is not stated) and attend a “networking event” with captains of the industry if they can persuade the judges that what they could accomplish given the chance to have face-to-face meetings abroad is sufficiently compelling.Supporting their hypothesis is a soon-to-be-published report by the Harvard Business Review that notes that 95% of respondents in their survey agree that face-to-face meetings are key to success in building long-term building relationships, while 87% agree that face-to-face meetings are essential for “sealing the deal.” The report further notes that face-to-face meetings “were seen as the most effective method for conducting business with key stakeholders, compared with videoconferences, teleconferences, and webinars.”Aside from the fact that I’m dismayed that my alma mater is degrading its brand with such corporate-sponsored “research”, British Airways misses an important point: what if you CAN have face-to-face meetings without traveling? What if there’s a technology that makes you forget you’re not in the same time zone with the person across the table? What if that technology can save you oodles of money and let your employees enjoy real work-life balance? The Economist points out these neglected questions: little wonder the report failed to mention TelePresence.So, I agree with the report: face-to-face meetings are pivotal to successful business relationships. But wake up, British Airways: face-to-face without flying is already here.