The use of technology to facilitate virtual meetings will ‘rocket’ in 2012, replacing over the next two years up to a fifth of ‘ritual’ face to face get-togethers. The trend is predicted as companies continue to pursue meetings and travel cost cutting strategies, says Fay Sharpe, Managing Director – Sales and Marketing, for the Zibrant agency.
“As travel costs increase and executive time pressures grow in the ongoing climate of austerity, companies are beginning to seriously embrace the virtual meeting as an effective way to achieve more with less,” says Sharpe. “What was once a peripheral novelty or ‘one off’ for most is now becoming an integral part of strategic meetings planning.”
Shapre also believes the rise in uptake of technology for meetings is likely to be one of the most significant trends for the coming year. “Training participants in virtual meetings techniques will be as important as investment in the technology itself,” she adds.
“The skill in making the most of remote meetings is subtle,” Sharpe continues. “Many visual cues, for example, will at worst be missing altogether or at best much harder to read, so there needs to be greater awareness and sensitivity to how delegates are reacting to what it being said. Even on the phone a lot of the nuances of vocal tone are also lost.”
In the digital age, much more attention needs to be paid to ensuring proper engagement, Sharpe believes. “The financial rewards, however, are too great for there to be insurmountable barriers.”
Sharpe concludes that face to face is still a preferred option because not every meeting lends itself to remote participation. “In the early stages of a business relationship, for example, it is hard to create rapport and trust online and therefore initial meetings should be scheduled so that everyone can physically be together in one room,” she says. “But from then on, and with particular applicability to now common ‘spoke and hub’ project set ups, considerable sums can be saved on time and travel by making interim meetings virtual.
“Once a degree of familiarity has been established, there are typically far fewer obstacles to routinely keeping on top of projects without the need for face to face.”
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