Whether yours is a Fortune 500 Company, a small startup, or somewhere in between, you know that the value of attending conferences and industry-related meetings can serve to inform and inspire your staff. The costs associated with such junkets across town or across the continent can be crippling, however. Not only does travel take a bite out of your bottom line and absent a member of the team for hours or days, it also has a price tag of a more global nature.
A single 2,500 mile flight creates nearly 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide gas, roughly 13 percent of what the average household creates in one entire year. Fortunately, with the advent of the Internet, you might cut the cost with online meeting apps. That’s right, there are meeting and conferencing tools which can eliminate the need to travel, freeing up resources for other necessities. Welcome to the world of virtual meetings.
Virtual Meetings – Gatherings in the Cloud
If you happen to be unfamiliar with virtual meetings, let us introduce you to the concept. With the use of software or web-based portals, members of a team or project can “meet” from their own desks via the internet. Such meetings allow the participants to interact in real time -- as they might in a conference telephone call -- but with the valuable advantage of being able to see each other, read the body language, and better understand what’s being communicated. Remember always that up to 90 percent of what people communicate in any situation is done non-verbally. Essentially, this makes a telephone conference that does not include actual, real-time images up to 90 percent useless.
There are other, more subtle reasons that virtual meetings can give you and your people an edge. As all sports fans know, the team who plays on the home field has the advantage. Particularly if your meeting goal is to make a sale, successfully negotiate a deal, or bring someone around to your point of view, having your point man on his own turf gives him the extra confidence he might need to accomplish the goal. It should be noted here that, because of the nature of virtual meetings, the other person is also on his or her own home turf. Philosophically, this means that everyone is at their best, therefore the product of such a meeting is bound to be better than average.
Virtually Endless Options
A quick web search for online meeting tools will net you many pages of possibilities. You can cut costs with online meeting apps that range from simple and free to more complex tools with heftier costs. Only you know what kinds of bells and whistles are necessary for your virtual meeting room, so spend some time looking at what’s available. Many of the software packages that do require an actual purchase, such as UberConference, may offer free trials. It’s worth your time and energy to explore these, since there is such a variety of features to be had. Begin with some of these:
? UberConference – Free (Professional version, $10 per month)
? WebEx by Cisco – Monthly Service
? Google Hangouts – Free
? Go To Meeting – Monthly Service
? JoinMe – Free (Professional version, $19 per month)
If your time is tight, Fox Business has compiled a list of excellent virtual meeting tools and apps which can cut your travel costs and keep your team on task from the comfort and security of their own home court.
And Then There’s Mother Earth
As previously mentioned, the cost of travel is not as simple as buying airline tickets and hotel rooms. Next time you find yourself in an airport watching the planes come and go, remember that ton of carbon emissions. Imagine what would happen if non-essential business travel could be taken out of the equation. If you must leave a diminished planet behind for your children, be sure you have no other choices. Even if your staff is traveling by car, they are, while doing your business, leaving carbon footprints behind them. Part of the joy associated with living in an advanced society is the ability to use state-of-the-art technology to eliminate those footprints before they exist.
This “green” line of thinking is also a spectacular way to build your brand. You are always marketing your services or your product and defining your niche in your industry. In a world where people pay close attention to environmental issues, you shouldn’t waste an opportunity to improve your image. Don’t forget to incorporate your environmental sensitivity when speaking to clients or potential employees. Teach your employees to emphasize your “green-ness” when they discuss your company culture with others. These kinds of points are increasingly important in marketing today.
Even if your employees are down-hearted over the loss of travel and adventure, and don’t really care to sacrifice for Mother Nature, they may eventually learn to love the technology, particularly if they can see a larger paycheck down the road because you’ve been successful at cutting travel costs.