Building a case for corporate travelJuly 19th, 2011 by Susan Reynard | Categories: hotels, industry, technology, tourism
Mary Shilleto, CEO of Thompsons Travel, builds a case for why corporate travel is better than video conferences:
Corporate travel is a professional necessity for many of us, but it invariably means time away from the office and your loved ones. Nowadays, especially with the global economic crisis, many companies have turned to cheaper options such as video conferencing. But while this technology certainly has its benefits, it has its drawbacks, too – and they can have a serious impact on business efficiency and effectiveness.
So, here are 10 strong reasons why a video conferencing platform can never replace a good, old-fashioned business meeting:
1. There’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings: Even in this high-tech, sci-fi world of ours where technology is supposed to make our lives easier and more manageable, we’re still humans – and there’s nothing quite like being able to look another flesh-and-blood human in the eye across a table. Also, we still place great store in shaking the other person’s hand, even if it’s riskier than ever to conclude business in this way. And you can learn something about someone from their handshake: is it firm and confident, or is it a slightly sweaty dead fish?
2. It’s more difficult to be lied to: It is much easier for people to tell you porky-pies remotely, than when you’re sitting in front of them. Many of us have, at some time, been economical with the truth while on the phone to the boss, a client, or our significant other – but it’s a different story when they’re physically present.
3. You don’t miss any non-verbal cues: While few of us are body language experts, we all pick up on non-verbal cues that telephone and video conferencing cannot communicate: that incessantly tapping foot, the sweaty brow, the shifting in the chair. Even unconsciously, we glean a lot of clues about people through non-verbal cues – information that could make or break a business relationship.
4. There are no off-screen voices to contend with: A webcam can only capture so much of a room and its occupants, and shifting the laptop around so that everyone gets a turn to be on-camera is cumbersome and annoying. Equally frustrating is that disembodied voice off-camera.
5. You can physically see what another company’s about: On a video conference call, all you can see is the other person and a bit of background detail. If it’s a company that you don’t know well, you may be getting a very skewed idea of who you’re dealing with. There’s nothing like going to a company’s bricks-and-mortar premises, and finding out for yourself that you’re dealing with more than a one-man-and-a-fax machine kind of operation.
6. There’s no buffering: Video conferencing platforms can be very frustrating when the Internet connection is slow, with video breaking up or sound cutting out intermittently. That two-second delay can really put the kibosh on a serious discussion, as everyone tries to speak at the same time – and then stops talking. But when you’re in the same room as the person or persons, there’s very little chance of them pixellating or speaking as if they’ve been badly dubbed.
7. You won’t get cut off unexpectedly: Hands up, everyone who has lost a call just as you got to the nitty-gritty. It wastes time and frays nerves to have to reconnect the call, and you often lose the flow of the conversation. In person, you never have to worry about being cut off at just the wrong moment.
8. You won’t be sunk by an unguarded remark: It’s so easy to make a sarcastic remark or say something rude about the other person while you’re dialling up – only to realise that while the video call wasn’t up yet, the sound was and they heard what you said. Avoid having to cringe by going to meet the person; you’ll be forced to be on your best behaviour.
9. Power failure? No problem: Power outages are irritating at the best of times. When you’re in the middle of an important video conference, it can be disastrous. The way to prevent this is to not rely on our national electricity grid, but rather go and meet someone in person. If the deal is that important, why not make the effort?
10. You’re not at the mercy of technology: Many of us do have to ask our kids to operate the DVD player or tune in the TV – so installing and running a video conference platform, as idiot-proof as it is, may be a download too far for some. And if it’s installed but you can’t make it work, it can be very embarrassing. Nobody, however, needs training (or an IT professional on hand) to operate Human 1.0.