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14 Sep, 2009

Videoconferencing Sector Steps Up Marketing Drive

The release of a White Paper earlier this month outlining the “Top Five Benefits of Video Conferencing” further underscores the onrushing competitive pressure that the travel & tourism, especially the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector, will have to deal with in the years ahead.

Released by Polycom, a U.S. telepresence, video and voice solutions company, the White Paper said video conferencing can help companies cut travel costs, increase productivity across dispersed workforces, improve hiring processes, sustain competitive advantage and support environmental initiatives. It claimed the conclusions were gleaned from conversations with customers, analysts, and value-added resellers.

The company accompanied that by announcing the debut of “Telepresence Interactive Forums” by the management guru Dr Stephen Covey who was to do a leadership workshop at a symposium in Colorado Springs from the comfort of his home in the mountains of Utah. The guru himself said he would be using more telepresence for his lectures and consulting assignments.

Although the MICE sector is scrambling to install these new technologies in its meeting rooms and convention halls, and continuing to insist that they will never replace the personal contact of a warm handshake, there is little doubt that they will have an impact on business and corporate travel in a world facing significant time, cost and environmental pressures.

All these were highlighted in the Polycom White Paper which said that although “nothing will ever replace the immediacy and impact of live interactions…. a large percentage of routine or regular business trips – with all their attendant expense – can be eliminated by communicating over video.

“With vast improvements in quality, availability, and ease of use, and with the ability to interact and share content in high definition, today’s video-conferencing is as close to ‘being there’ as one can get without actually making the trip.”

It said that travel reduction “is the easiest expense to calculate when determining ROI of a video conferencing investment. Fundamentally, video ROI calculates the number of trips taken annually, multiplied by the cost (transport to and from the airport, flight, per diem, salary of time lost in traveling) vs. the investment in the video conferencing solution (equipment, service, training, network).

“The majority of organisations will see a single outlay of annual travel expenses far outweighing the entire video conferencing investment, easily justifying the implementation.”

At the same time, it said, “dispersed work forces and project teams present many challenges, none more so than misunderstood, lost, slow, or simply nonexistent communication between individuals residing in different locations.”

“Most teams interact via phone, email, IM, or workflow applications. However, with 80% of communication consisting of non-verbal, visual cues, the ability of teams to understand, process, and collaborate over distance via these methods is at best halting, and at worst, severely impeded.

“Wherever video is added to a meeting, participants are more likely to stay focused, because they can be seen as well as heard. Expressions of satisfaction, concern, confusion, understanding, etc. can easily be seen and addressed, speeding and informing the group more effectively than myriad emails, voicemails, and IMs. The result: decisions made faster, projects completed sooner, and productivity increased across the organization.”

The White Paper said video-conferencing can facilitate hiring processes, especially when candidates are located in other cities or when multiple people are involved in the interview process. Interviews can be conducted both in person and over video, and can also be recorded, enabling persons unable to be part of the live interview process to see it later.

It said video communication can facilitate improved cooperation among team members, help employees retain work/life balance by mitigating travel so they can spend more time with their families, and allow employees to work partially or full time from home, to alleviate the impact of commuting.

“Teams communicating over video share knowledge more widely, resulting in faster and more informed decisions that reduce the time to market for new products and services. Support teams leverage video to create more personal, one-to-one relationships with their customers, encouraging a loyalty far beyond the capabilities of a traditional call center agent.”

Finally, it said video conferencing is an obvious ‘green’ technology, allowing organizations to mitigate energy use by dramatically reducing the need to travel and substantially reduce their carbon footprint.

Some comments on the future potential of video-conferencing also were reported on the meetingsreview.com website.

David Dryden, managing partner at global engineering design company Cundall, was quoted as saying that the level of engagement provided by existing technologies “simply isn’t sufficient and often creates a one dimensional and dysfunctional meeting environment.”

On the other hand, Paul Louden, vice president of sales at Polycom, is quoted as saying, “If a company cuts one business trip for a few employees from the US to Europe or Asia, the money saved will pay for one of our telepresence systems.”

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