Face-to-face meetings are a thing of the past. video, audio and Web conferencing will replace them, now that travel is too expensive and too scary. Or at least, thats what everyone has been saying lately.
However, Im not too sure about some of these conclusions. Im saying this as someone who does audio conferences several times a week and often does at least one Web conference per week. These options work but not for everything. And even when they do work, I almost always have the feeling that I would have gotten a lot more out of a face-to-face session.
For example, vendors who may have previously flown to our offices to show me a new product are now likely to set up a PlaceWare or WebEx conference instead. These can work very well: I can see their presentation, and they can use app sharing in these tools to give me a demo over the Web.
However, its also a lot harder for me to influence the flow of the meeting to make it more valuable for myself and, conversely, for the vendor. I cant give the visual clues for them to move on, and they cant see when Im obviously interested in a specific feature. Even worse, if I begin to lose interest, its too easy to fire up a browser and do other research.
There are all kinds of other examples where a face-to-face meeting makes more sense. A sales rep cant take a client out to dinner and a ballgame over a videoconference. And a tech consultant may not notice over a Web share that the technician at the client is hopelessly in over his or her head.
Dont get me wrong: I think conferencing apps have a lot of value. Im just not sure if they are any more important now than they were before. After all, it may soon be cheaper to fly somewhere than to set up a videoconference. Also, flight is safer now than it was before the events of Sept. 11.
Has your company changed plans when it comes to remote conferencing? Are you ramping up implementation and use of these systems? Do you find different types of conferencing systems more useful than others? I have a feeling these answers will vary greatly from business to business.