The pros and cons of virtual meetings

How technology can help reduce the travel bill for small businesses.

In recent years, the usage of virtual meeting technology has jumped up massively, to the point where it has become commonplace, especially among the larger companies. They have both streamlined and enhanced traditional meeting procedures, helping connect people who may have otherwise been unable to attend.

Virtual meetings are a further step up from video conferencing, which was an effective method blighted by some rather cumbersome problems. Virtual meetings (or virtual conferencing) fix these stumbling points. As a (relatively) new technology, there are both advantages and disadvantages inherent in its usage; the main ones are listed below.

Initial outlay vs return on investment

Of course, when investing in any new improvements to your business, there is bound to be some expense involved. And if you have none of the required technology, then deciding to start using virtual meetings can be a costly decision in the short term – computers, webcams, microphones and the like are all needed, as is specific visual conferencing software. It won’t be cheap.

See also: Top 10 tips for effective video conferencing

However, that being said, this initial outlay will only be a one-off, short-term thing, whereas the return on your investment will come into play almost immediately, and continue on for as long as you use the technology. The main savings will come from the fact that you won’t have to travel to meetings; they take place wherever the technology is located. This means you don’t have to pay for endless taxi journeys and flights.

In 2009, Procter & Gamble invested in telepresence technology and within six months had eliminated more than 6,000 flights, saving them hundreds of thousands of pounds. Although you may not be in the position to cut quite that many journeys, the amount of money you’ll save will increase as you reduce the amount of travelling you do. Virtual meetings are perfect in this regard.

Reduced flexibility vs reduced disruptions

Of course, doing your meetings through screens isn’t going to be quite as good as doing it in person, but the current virtual meeting technology is the next best thing. Yes, you won’t be able to be as flexible – for example, splitting into a number of smaller groups to discuss separate matters will undoubtedly be more difficult than it would be in person, but it is not necessarily impossible.

On the other hand, the technology eliminates a certain number of disruptions. Because people no longer have to travel great distances, meetings can be booked nearer to the time, and take less time in total. Also, if you need someone at the drop of a hat, you can speak to them over the internet instantly, instead of having to massively change their schedule.

Potential failures vs increased objectivity

As virtual meetings require the internet to function, they will only be as reliable as your internet connection. Obviously, this won’t be a massive problem all the time, but if your internet goes down, you won’t be able to conduct that all important meeting. Make sure to choose a decent ISP.

You might think that you’ll just use telephones instead, but this is the other major advantage of virtual meetings – roughly 80 per cent of all effective communication is visual rather than purely aural. By choosing to go the route of virtual meetings, you are ensuring that your communication benefits from increased objectivity: no more misunderstandings!

Further reading on virtual meetings

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