Virtual Meetings to Enhance Communication, Collaboration and Savings

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1 Virtual Meetings to Enhance Communication, Collaboration and Savings Executive Summary In an economy that is set to experience a steep rise in travel, fuel costs and a newly-introduced carbon tax, organisations today are turning to technology to help minimise their expenses the solution: Virtual Meetings. To make the most of this solution, businesses need to have not only an understanding of their business needs, but an understanding of how these needs can be mapped to virtual meetings tools that are available and that can enhance their collaboration efforts. Almost 60 percent of survey respondents expect to see a rise in staffing levels and capital investment in the next 12 months. This paper examines the benefits of virtual meetings and how companies are varying and expanding their usage of conferencing tools as a continuous progression in communicating virtually. Examining the shift from basic conferencing to advanced solutions Meeting virtually is not a new concept. Audio or Teleconferencing has been around since the 1960 s, with organisations using these services more consistently in the last 20 years to get groups of people talking and communicating at one time, from different locations. Over this time additional technology has entered the market that enables businesses to not only communicate from phone to phone, but from computer to computer, computer to computer using video streaming, and video to video. So what are the differences? Audio or Teleconferencing is a simple service where any number of people can connect using a landline or in more recent time a mobile phone. Operator Assisted Audio enables additional services such as Question and Answer sessions, Polls to be undertaken by a impartial third party operator or host, while ensuring that the people supposed to attend the meeting do attend the meeting through direct operator connections. Web is where people can link computers to share and present documents. They also run an audio conferencing simultaneously (via landline phone or via computer) to enable communication and document sharing. 1

2 Video Streaming is web conferencing with visuals. Businesses can link individual computers that have a video camera, to share documents, communicate verbally, but also see other participants. Video is a true video to video technology, where meeting rooms are designed so that parties can communicate verbally and visually through specialised video conferencing equipment. The rate of adoption of the different technologies has been in part due to the proliferation of the technology, the increasing ease of use of the technology and the price. So given the long history of the telephone and its availability within our community, it easy to see why businesses are comfortable with the teleconferencing services. The Continuous Program, as outlined below, shows that a simple dial in service is still the first step for businesses who aim to enhance their virtual collaboration services. Figure 1. Fig 1. The Continuum 2

3 This continuous program is supported by the results of a recent survey to current users of virtual services. Audio is a relatively strongly subscribed collaboration tool, with usage by the majority of respondents over two years. Web and Video services, however, have a reduced number of respondents who have taken up this collaboration service or have taken it up more recently. The adoption and education of these tools is still developing, alongside the development and improvements of the technology. Video Web Paid Audio 2 + years 1-2 years < 12 months Never Graph 1. Use of conferencing services by adoption period Web is the collaboration tool to be next in demand. Growth of web conferencing is has been estimated at an overall rate of 19% for Australia over the next five years. (Wainhouse in Current users of collaboration tools are also projected to increase their existing usage by 30% within the next 12 months. This growth is driven from the need to be more cost and time effective, changing business needs, improved and easier technology and market opportunities. Some of the reasons, participants notes for their increase in web conferencing include; I am changing the nature of my training and consultation business to depend more on online communication tools, in order to provide a better service to clients who live at significant distance from major centres. I also expect a growth by other companies, partners and agencies in the use of these methods Time is critical. Time driven to and from meetings can be better utilised. It is vitally important in this competitive world to ensure good personal relationships with customers; web and video conferencing should be used to complement face to face interactions with clients, suppliers etc. 3

4 How are virtual meetings used today? Companies have begun to use virtual meetings to be more effective organisations. The decision to choose virtual meetings over face to face often relates to budget constraints and work life balance for participants, as opposed to choosing face to face meetings for meetings and clients considered to be high importance. Choosing the type of virtual meeting to hold, does depend on the proficiency and understanding of the technology to be utilised, but also just as importantly, the type of meeting to be held. The following table shows a list of the most effective meeting methods that respondents to a recent survey, identified for each of the collaboration tools. Face to Face When having to make a presentation Meetings to obtain and important decision Negotiating or closing a sale Audio Meetings less than 2 hrs long Routine Team Meetings Cross Departmental Project Team Meetings Web Training When having to make a presentation Broadcast meetings to shareholders Video Committee Meeting with external parties When meeting is more then 2 hrs When meeting is less then 2 hrs Understanding the right virtual meeting mix for a business requires an understanding of the business needs and mapping these needs to appropriate solutions. Benefits of a Virtual Meeting The use of virtual meetings by different organisations is on the rise with companies having virtual teams set up in to different geographical locations. The benefits of using virtual meetings are assessed below: 1. Travel costs: More than 68 percent of respondents were relieved not to travel. Saving costs on travel means an improved bottom line. 2. Time Management: Almost 70 percent of the respondents thought that they managed time better when they used virtual meetings and prevented work accumulating at office while travelling. Finding the right solution for each meeting is the key. 3. Work/Life balance: Virtual meetings also impact on balancing work and family and relieved participants from the disruption of after-work routine and activities. 4

5 4. Carbon footprint: Many companies are working towards a green outcome, which virtual meetings can have a strong impact. 5. Perception. Most companies, using virtual meeting solutions, wanted their brand to be perceived as one that is efficient and respectful of time constraints of meeting participants. Web Product information Products: Web Present Web Interact Information on the company website: Enquiries Phone Technology Boost: Using virtual meetings also helps portray your organisation as progressive and tech savvy. The use of the ipad, for example, has grown with participants engaging greater use of technology. Many organisations in various industries like Health, Culture, Finance, Communication, Government and Education have used virtual meetings and have experienced its benefits. Conclusion Use virtual meetings to achieve business objectives in a more simple and effective way. The benefits of using a virtual meeting will impact your business to bring about productivity, reduced costs and increased efficiency. Add web conferencing to your already existing virtual meeting tools and experience the advantages quickly and easily. About Express Virtual Meetings TM Express Virtual Meetings make meeting easy. You can conference virtually anywhere, anytime and choose to use our seamless conferencing solutions that include audio, video and web conferencing solutions. We re your answer to help virtual teams communicate effectively in a collaborative environment. For more information about the company visit the website at sign up for a free consultation and a conferencing consultant will contact you so you can experience hitch-free conferencing with us. 5

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