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Like we've said before — successful meetings are done face-to-face

October 8, 2009
at 9:46 pm PST

Successful Meetings Magazine recently ran a column discussing a study that was done by Harvard and featured in the Harvard Business Journal. The study of 2,300 business leaders in the United States, Europe and Asia found that face-to-face communication is essential to doing business. Of the respondents, 79% claimed that in-person meetings are the most effective way to sell business and 89% said in-person meetings were the most effective way to close deals.

The survey was sponsored by British Airways (which is much like a tobacco study being funded by Phillip Morris) and when presented by Harvard Business Review research editor Angela Herrin, was claimed to have proven that face-to-face wins in every category for interacting with clients, negotiating deals and understanding customers.

Ironically, despite these findings, 60% of the respondents claimed that they use remote meeting technologies very frequently.

This was quickly attributed to the economy and the fact that corporate travel budgets are down across the board. In fact, the article quotes Continental Airlines CEO Larry Kellner who, in defending his position that business travel will rebound, gives an anecdote about a business meeting where attendants shot down video teleconferencing (VTC) after an initial foray into VTC failed three years prior. This was based on so much business being done “in the bar, over dinner, at the golf course” because “that’s where ideas ferment.”

Here at TANDBERG, we feel differently. As a video teleconferencing company, the fact that we’d disagree with the thinking of the old “business travel” guard should surprise no one. Regardless, we see some serious problems with the arguments above.

First off, one of the major and most glaring mistakes being committed here is the presumption that video teleconferencing isn’t “face-to-face” communication. Recent technological advancements in video and telepresence solutions have made the VTC experience so lifelike and realistic that it’s as though you are standing in the same room with other meeting participants. Can you physically shake a person’s hand? No…but you may actually try.

Second, the current decline in business travel is a direct result of slashed travel budgets caused by the ongoing recession, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to go back to the norm when the economy rights itself. The fact is, advanced VTC technologies not only provide a realistic face-to-face experience, but they cost significantly less, are far more productive and spontaneous and cause significantly less damage to the environment.

Why? The initial investment in a VTC solution more than pays for itself when plane tickets, hotel rooms and meals no longer need to be paid for. Travel delays and trips to the airport not only take away valuable business hours, but create a huge delay between idea conception and idea presentation. VTC not only gives people that time back to spend on more productive pursuits, but allows ideas to be shared immediately. The grounding of planes and parking of cars also means a smaller carbon footprint for your company.

At TANDBERG we believe that collaboration is no longer black and white. The concept that a meeting is either in-person or over-the-phone is archaic. There is a new way of working. There is another option. VTC brings the best of both worlds to the table, and keeps you out of the sand traps…now that’s a winning solution.

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