Will video conferencing ever replace face-to-face meetings? Although business owners and accounting departments may wish they could slash travel budgets to zero through a robust video conferencing system, signs point to, “No.”
Instead, businesses can deploy a blend of face-to-face meetings and video conferencing to experience the best in cost savings, efficiency, and creative collaboration.
When Video Conferencing Works
Video conferencing works well for initial interviews early in the hiring process, collaboration with international partners where frequent travel is not practical or cost-effective, and even to replace some networking and lead generation events.
Businesses that use video conferencing and virtual trade shows for customer acquisition shave 50 to 80 percent off the price of each sales lead by eliminating the costs of booth rental and displays, hotel rooms, and transportation, according to Bloomberg News.
Companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue see a return on investment on an extensive telepresence system—the next level of video conferencing, with immersive audio video and life-size images—within 15 months of deployment, according to a report by the Carbon Disclosure Project. Less sophisticated video conferencing systems pay for themselves even faster with reduced travel budgets and happier, more productive employees.
While businesses often focus on the cost savings of video conferencing, the soft benefits such as time savings and increased employee morale also have a significant affect on a company’s success. Employees who replace some business trips with video conferences spend less time away from their families, leading to a better work-life balance and happier workplace.
In a survey conducted by Wainhouse Research 94 percent of video conference users cited increased efficiency and productivity as the number one benefit. Additionally, 87 percent said video conferencing expedites decision-making. In today’s marketplace, when businesses must adapt to changing market conditions and capitalize on opportunities faster than competitors, video conferencing provides that necessary edge.
Where you may only send one or two employees to an in-person meeting, you can invite more members of a team to a video conference without increasing the budget, bringing different viewpoints to the table early in a project.
Benefits of Face-to-Face Meetings
Video conferencing isn’t perfect, however. First, there is the risk of wasting employees’ time with too many meetings simply because they are so easy to organize and implement. Additionally, it might take two or three video conferences to accomplish what employees could complete in one face-to-face brainstorming session. It’s more challenging to read subtle nuances in facial expressions on a two-dimensional screen than in person, and, obviously, it’s impossible to bond over dinner or drinks, virtually.
Personal connections forged during face-to-face meeting can lead to enhanced creativity. In studies, 85 percent of respondents said they think face-to-face meetings are more likely to result in breakthrough thinking.
In the case of hiring decisions, major acquisitions, or signing a long-term, high-stakes deal with a client or vendor, face-to-face meetings build trust. For instance, an HR director wants to meet top candidates in person to see how they interact with office staff, if they are at ease in their environment, and to establish a rapport that is not always possible through a single video conference. That’s not to say it’s impossible to build relationships through video interaction —it just may take longer.
Budgets Shift, But Travel Remains Important
As workers get to know associates virtually, the desire to travel for a face-to-face meeting grows. Rather than replacing face-to-face meetings with video conferencing, business owners should look for travel budgets to shift from frequent meetings with new prospects to less frequent, highly targeted meetings to ink a big deal or strengthen relationships with existing vendors or customers.
Video conferencing and face-to-face meetings can—and should—go hand-in-hand for a more productive and efficient workplace.
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