Video Conferencing vs. Realtime Meetings: Is one Better than the other?

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Meetings take up time and employees are pulled away from productive work to spend time at meetings. This is a loss in terms of employee productivity and in terms of time as well. As a result, most companies have now shifted over to different modes to hold meetings.

Videoconferencing, in particular, is turning out the to be the most popular alternative to realtime meetings for any reasons. Consider the fact that Cisco canceled face-to-face sales training session for its employees while Apple has stopped attending future Macworlds says Businessweek.

Both of these companies are shutting down their extensive and extravagant meetings, training sessions, social outings, etc. and converting them to completely online events to boost productivity and cut down on spending.

Virtual Meetings save Time and Money
Video conferencing picked up in popularity due to a simple reason: globalization. Large companies were encouraged to set up divisions all over the world as they saved on tax, manufacturing costs, and payroll. However, at the same time, this also meant communication problems. Cultural differences, time zone problems, etc. all resulted in serious productivity problems that affected profits considerably. The only solution at the time was telephones or travel.

Senior management and IT staff had to travel frequently or they were on conferences calls constantly to ensure that these outsourced divisions were on the same page. The problem here was that telephones only provide audio support and travel was expensive.

Video conferencing changed all that and it provided numerous benefits immediately. It quickly became possible to discuss problems, solve technical issues, discuss productivity, take interviews, etc through video conferencing and the interactive tools it provided. By the late 2000’s, almost every company in the world used video conferencing software and it is extremely popular and useful.  For large companies with outsourced divisions, video conferencing replaced face-to-face meetings completely.

With evolving technology, now even local meetings are held through conferencing software like Blue Jeans says Iacconline. Companies like Apple are now switching their realtime training and entertainment events into virtual events with videoconferencing and special interactive software. Virtual attendees are invited to meetings through email and they are linked through video conferencing software.

Virtual attendees ‘virtually’ enter a building that looks like a convention centre online. With a click of a button, they enter designated ‘virtual’ halls and attend ‘virtual’ conferences. Through the same medium, attendees can also visit exhibition ‘stalls’ or websites, watch demos, participate in virtual contests and ‘network’ with other virtual attendees. This process of using videoconferencing to set up virtual meetings can save companies more than 80 percent of their budget for venue rentals, hotel bookings, travel time, training sessions, and so on says the Wall Street Journal. The only expense is videoconferencing software and most large companies already have this software being used in different forms.

Nothing Compares To Face-To- Face Interactions
Although video conferencing is very popular, the truth is that realtime meetings are here to stay. First meetings with new clients and vendors will require face time and these meetings cannot be held through video conferencing even if they are halfway across the world. However, technology is here to stay.

Even though realtime meetings are held face-to-face, now they use state-of-the-art web technology to keep attendees interested. For example, most live meetings now have live blogging, surveys, online Q&A sessions, realtime tweets and queries through anonymous forums, etc.

Some companies also provide employees with PDAs that contain electronic copies of agendas, presentations, quiz sheets, etc. to assess participation and interest in the quiz. This means that although meetings are live, they still require technology to make it a success.

The TV/Movie Analogy
It is difficult to pick one option over another and both video conferencing and realtime meetings are useful. The best way to understand the problem is by understanding the TV / Movie analogy says the Conference Group. When movies started, industry analysts stated that TV would be redundant but the TV has managed to stay in trend and it has remained popular.

In the same way, small meetings or important meetings are still held face-to-face to increase personal connections and encourage productivity. Psychologists and behavioral scientists also state that realtime meetings are important and companies need to strategically determine which meetings require face time and which meetings can be done solely through videoconferencing.

Face-to-face meetings are important and they can never be phased out completely but with increasing globalization, video conferencing seems to be the only solution that is cheap and effective.

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