These days travel can be a huge expense for any size business. Everybody’s watching their bottom line. Business class tickets. Shipping presentation materials. Hotels, meals, cabs, etc. It adds up quickly. Oh yes, you can’t forget your good walking shoes to cover the floor of the convention center and you can hit all the booths of the companies you want to see. That is if you have time between meetings and seminars. Got enough business cards?
The other side of the coin to consider is can you afford to take days away from doing business to do business? It is of course very important to network with others in your industry but it’s equally important to serve your customers. Technology has solved this conundrum through virtual conferencing. As a more interactive proposition beyond sitting in front of a video camera connected to a big screen, it allows participants access to key note speakers, presenters, exhibitors, and other attendees in a real time (sometimes 3D) setting. Through the use of avatars you can view webcast (live or recorded), chat with exhibitors, and collaborate with other attendees around the world from the comfort of your office or home.
Virtual conferencing can be tailored to suit the needs of any business or industry. In this area size does not matter because there is no real overhead. Anyone and everyone from Catholic homeschoolers to major car manufacturers use virtual conferencing to keep participants informed of the latest trends, innovations, and news.
As an exhibitor there are significant savings on shipping, printing, and man hours spent at the exhibit booth. You can spend more time conferring with potential clients or vendors. Because this virtual community can be maintained for a set time period there is the opportunity for people to visit your “booth” around the clock for weeks or months after the live date. As an attendee you can allow more employees to participate at no additional costs, initiate training sessions, and view webcasts on a more flexible schedule. Furthermore, you can access an exhibitor’s literature in PDF format, thus saving on printing costs.
Although there are many benefits to virtual conferencing there are a few downsides. There is the lose of face time. There’s really nothing like a handshake at a meet and greet.
Content must be interesting and attention grabbing. Other attendees will still look for things related to their current needs as if they were walking a showroom floor so this must be taken into consideration when designing the environment. Then there are the technical aspects themselves. The event planner must have the technological capabilities to provide the conference to everyone no matter what their technology is at their location. The planner has to be able to accommodate both PC and Mac users whether they have DSL, cable, or an in-house network, or 3G iPad.
It has been predicted that virtual conferencing could outpace traditional conferences and conventions but it seems most people would still prefer direct contact with their audiences. However at the same time this could be an excellent tool in a business arsenal to reach out to clients and perhaps customers they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to interact with without having to leave the confines and conforts of home.
What are your views, have you implemented virtual conferencing, it's been around for years, but have you adopted it?