Survey Uncovers Annoyances in Video Conferencing

A survey finds IT professionals and small business owners have significant gripes about how helpful collaboration tools are marred by a lack of office decorum on the part of the participants.

A survey of business professionals suggests while they embrace the ease and freedom provided by virtual meetings, IT professionals and small to medium-size business (SMB) owners are frustrated by less-than-mannerly behaviors in the boardroom or on conference calls. The survey, "Meetings Dos and Don'ts," from PGi, a provider of meeting and collaboration solutions, polled small-business owners and IT decision-makers in March. Survey respondents overwhelmingly valued technology that enables "face-to-face" moments without incurring travel costs.

In the new PGi study, nearly two in three IT decision-makers surveyed consider monitor sharing to be the greatest meeting innovation of the last five years. Nearly six in 10 IT decision-makers cited video conferencing. In contrast, almost half of small-business owners surveyed consider video conferencing and the conference call to be the greatest meeting innovations to transform their operations.
"When you add the visual element to a meeting, you better connect with others and become even more productive," said PGi CEO and chairman Boland Jones. "A meeting isn't just a business transaction; it's an opportunity to establish trust. Technology doesn't replace relationship building. Technology should support it."
Those surveyed said that while they overlook the distractions of virtual meetings, they prefer in-person meetings to conference calls (58 percent IT, 47 percent SMB). However, even though business professionals want to see others during meetings, they don't necessarily want to be seen themselves. Both IT and SMB survey respondents admitted to the same irritating behaviors they detest in others during meetings, like checking e-mail, searching sports scores or leaving the room. PGi's U.S. survey, conducted in March, identified that more than half of the respondents secretly multitask during meetings. Only a few admitted to getting "caught" multitasking (34 percent of IT decision-makers, 21 percent of SMB owners), suggesting an attitude of "do as I say, not as I do".
Among the top meeting frustrations reported by business professionals surveyed, 72 percent of IT decision-makers and 69 percent of SMB owners cited engaging in side conversations: 58 percent (IT) and 64 percent (SMB) said checking personal e-mails, 49 percent (IT) and 54 percent (SMB) complained about participants "zoning out", 43 percent (IT) and 51 percent (SMB) said checking sports scores and 38 percent (IT) and 41 percent (SMB) noted participants who leave the room during a call.
"While people want total attention when they are leading a meeting, everyone also demands the freedom to multitask as needed," Jones said. "No matter where people are in the world, technology makes it possible to replicate a face-to-face meeting over the Web, while liberating attendees from the strict decorum expected when people sit in the same room. As meeting experts, we know firsthand that people thrive when together, virtually or physically."
While U.S. professionals are prone to meeting multitasking, Australians seem less fervent about doing other things and are more focused on getting to the meeting via technology no matter their location. In a January survey commissioned by PGi's Sydney office, 60 percent of Australian respondents said they have participated in Web conferences or conference calls at places other than the office, including home, a bar, a bathroom or on a flight.