WEB CONFERENCING: What Difference Does a Meeting Make?

Web based meetings involve all of the major components of an in-person conference except for the warm body because face-to-face contact is replaced with equipment and computer access to information.  This rapidly expanding technology allows all participants to see and hear each other and share content easily across locations via their PC screen.  As with any tool designed to improve business interaction, it is important to consider both the pros and cons before determining how it fits your business strategy.  Remember that the goal of meetings and events is to network and exchange information.

ADVANTAGES:

  1. MEET MORE OFTEN FOR HALF AS MUCH
    It is true that web conferencing provides you with the opportunity to have more meetings without the travel and logistical costs that bringing a diverse group together.

    • Save more by eliminating these costs:
      • Renting a venue and equipping it for your needs
      • Expensive hotel rooms
      • Transportation. Whether its cars, trains, or planes it isn’t free.
      • Shipping and packing costs for display or discussion materials.

    To be sure that the savings apply to your business, determine the average cost to generate a lead or define a business strategy when you bring all participants to one location.  Now consider what it costs when done virtually. Today’s economy has everyone looking for the most bang for the buck.  Web conferencing done through relatively simple computer requirements that almost everyone already has on hand means that it can save money and meet other business goals at the same time.

  2. BETTER PROJECT MANAGEMENT
    When you are able to meet regularly throughout the life of a project, you reap the
    benefits of better follow-through, rapid response to problems and all the side  benefits of a fully informed team. Consider how these benefits could impact your projects:

    • Connecting multiple sites for ongoing collaboration whether it’s in the building, across town or around the world
    • More flexible scheduling because the travel element is removed
    • More people able to be included in meetings
    • Real time exchange of ideas.  Input and modifications are received in a timely manner
    • All the benefits of face-to-face interaction can be provided by video conferencing
    • When pitching an idea or project, the client or team has the opportunity for a much clearer understanding of the concepts.
    • Questions can be answered and details clarified in real time.
    • Confusion from misinterpretation of written messages is overcome because voices are heard and the intent of the message is easier to understand.
    • Whether it’s completing a huge project on time and on budget or revving up a lagging sales cycle, web conferencing is a great tool for maintaining momentum and focus.
  3. TIME and ENERGY SAVINGS
    • Save time not only of principals involved in meetings but of those who have the scheduling and coordination responsibilities
    • Can reach remote locations in real time
    • Travel time can be utilized for other tasks and projects
    • Decisions can be made faster and deals sealed quicker.
    • Thus allowing you to stay in front of your competition
  4. CONVENIENCE
    • People can talk from hotels, offices, even at home at a mutually convenient time
    • Meet with clients from any location
    • Format that can be played back once the web meet is concluded
    • People working from different locations can all meet together with ease

Since web based meetings depend on the Internet to transfer information and present data to all participants, there are a variety of disadvantages that may arise.

When difficulties occur, the appeal of the web conference service may be decreased.  The idea behind technological tools is to make communications easier, but sometimes they are actually more of a hassle than more traditional methods.

DISADVANTAGES:

  1. THERES NO SUBSTITUTE FOR FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGS
    Even though you have the voice contact, there is no face to face contact. Depending on the nature of your business this may or may not be of importance, but people who meet face to face have an easier time establishing a solid work relationship because there is the ability to get to really know one another.
    Despite technological advances, people still travel from place to place so that they can meet in person.   Humans are social creatures and some connections are best made while people are in the same room. Therefore, web conferencing is definitely a tool for the present and the future, but it does not solve communications needs for all situations.
  2. TECHNICAL GLITCHES and DISTRACTIONS
    When dealing with any piece of technology, there is always the potential for unforeseen events to take place. Slow Internet connections can pose a problem in the running of an online meeting.  Another drawback to web-based technology is that connection speeds in many places do not provide a seamless communications experience. While most businesses have “high speed” Internet connections, video aspects of web conferences can still experience limited application.  Video feeds can often be delayed or “choppy” and the size and quality of the video may be ideal. This may make the medium one that does not provide an ideal form of group communication. If a power outage should occur, a loss of communication is the result.There are times when any type of conference call raises issues.  Sometimes people engage in active dialogue, but other times people simply hit the mute button and do something else while a presenter talks to the group.  Web conferencing doesn’t necessarily solve this problem of being distracted, unless everyone has a web camera.  If that is the situation, then people will feel a greater obligation to pay attention, or at least appear interested.
  3. LOGISTICS and DELAYS
    Another challenge that can arise when using web conference calls can be related to connection issues. In e-mail discussions time zones pose no problems.   However, trying to find a mutually agreeable time slot is difficult when time
    differences vary by several hours.  Of course, not all problems are solved once the group has a set time.  All parties expected to participate have to be present in a timely manner.  Effectiveness drops dramatically when the group must wait for a key participant.  Additionally calls occasionally get dropped during a meeting and this disrupts both the focus and the effectiveness of the group.
  4. LESS CLARITY
    There are many variables that can impact on the effectiveness of a meeting. Anything that reduces that understanding of the participants is a concern.  When meeting attendees are from different cultures and speak different languages, web
    conferencing is likely to slow everything down.  The additional preparation to deal with this issue may decrease the benefits of speed and low cost.

FINAL WORDS

It is unlikely that web conferencing will ever completely replace face-to-face meetings.  However, with careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages and price comparisons between different communication tools, it is definitely possible to decide which one best fits into your business strategy.  The question isn’t which one is better than
the other, but which one can work best for you.  Only you can make the difference!

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