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New York Times: “As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual”

July 22, 2008 - 3 Comments

“As travel costs rise and airlines cut service, companies large and small are rethinking the face-to-face meeting - and business travel as well. At the same time, the technology has matured to the point where it is often practical, affordable and more productive to move digital bits instead of bodies,” reports The New York Times’ Steve Lohr*. (*Note: free registration required.)

CNBC’s Jim Goldman recently reported a similar story.”When used regularly, the (TelePresence) rooms pay for themselves within a year, analysts estimate.”Lohr reports that one executive who utilizes TelePresence said,”10 minutes into it, you forget you are not in the room with them.” Here are some extremely interesting and compelling (IMHO) TelePresence and web-based meeting stats that Lohr lays out in his report:1. “Accenture figures its consultants used virtual meetings to avoid 240 international trips and 120 domestic flights in May alone, for an annual saving of millions of dollars and countless hours of wearying travel for its workers.”2. Cornerstone Information Systems, a 60-person business software company in Bloomington, Ind…”estimates the (sales) group’s travel costs of have been cut by 60 percent and the average time to close a new sale has been reduced by 30 percent.”3. “(T)he Climate Group, an environmental organization, estimated that up to 20 percent of business travel worldwide could be replaced by Web-based and conventional videoconferencing technology.”4. Darryl Draper of Subaru of America, “used to travel four days a week, nine months of the year, presenting educational programs at dealers nationwide…Previously, Ms. Draper estimated, in six months she would reach about 220 people at a cost of $300 a person. She said she now reaches 2,500 people every six months at a cost of 75 cents a person.”5. “Cisco, which has more than 200 telepresence rooms, figures it is avoiding $100 million in yearly travel costs, and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from air travel by 10 percent.”6. “H.P. says air travel among its offices with telepresence rooms is down 25 percent.”Cisco is obviously a huge believer in web-based collaborative technologies and this story certainly makes a compelling case for these technologies, but, as Lohr points out at the end of his story, “it is not a perfect substitute” for face to face meetings. “You don’t learn about other cultures in telepresence,” says the chief of human resources for Accenture.”You get things from being there, over breakfast and dinner, building relationships face to face.” That is definitely true, but after that first face-to-face meeting, TelePresence works very, very nicely for the relationship going forward and both sides get to tuck in their kids at night…and you can’t put a price on that.

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  1. What a great article and a real eye opener. This sort of virtual meeting not only saves the company money but could also reduce their carbon footprint. Obviously the airlines would not be too pleased and some would say that a couple of businessmen would not be missed as the plane will still fly but at the end of the day every little bit helps.We use Skype a lot for our meetings but will be looking into this a new way of connecting with overseas clients.Thanks for the info John!

  2. Indeed, it's costless for companies to have internet conference call for their managers than travling across the country to schedule a meeting.A lot of applications already exists, why don't we use them !It's costless for the company and better for the environnement, what else do we need ?

  3. have never thought about it like that before. Thanks so much for the depth and understanding at which you covered the topic. it's a useful piece of information not only for me but for many others. have read much on the topic in different blogs (download mainly from but this piece really gives food for thought