There’s been a discussion going on among some of the American Cancer Society’s Futuring & Innovations community about moving from typical face to face meetings to using virtual meetings. There are three reasons why any organization, especially nonprofits, should look at increasing their use of virtual meetings.
- Budget impact. It’s just flat expensive to travel compared to the cost of using Web cams and computers.
- Staff engagement. More and more people are coming out of college having used distance learning to meet their degree requirements. Rather than send them to a training session requiring out of town travel, forms of distance learning such as e-courses allows them to fit the learning into their own schedules. It’s not necessary to be away from your family or to miss an episode of Lost because you had to fly somewhere to attend a training class
- Productivity. Many managers are resistant to having their staff pulled away from their responsibilities to attend a training session. With distance learning, you don’t have to spend hours flying or driving to your destination before and after the class.
Then, of course, there’s the impact on the environment. Virtual conferencing leaves very little carbon footprint compared to a business trip.
There are vendors that do provide videoconferencing via the Internet for a fee that is much less than sending the same number of people to a meeting. If you try to do videoconferencing on your own, you have to watch the impact on your bandwidth. So using a third party vendor, although more expensive than doing it in-house, is probably still much more budget friendly than out of town travel.
One of the drawbacks to distance learning is that it’s hard to teach skills such as salesmanship. However, Cisco may have come up with something that will overcome that obstacle. It’s probably way too expensive for nonprofits now, but then so were computers in 1990. (Thanks to PGreenblog.)
Fans of Isaac Asimov will recall a series of novels and stories featuring Daneel Olivaw where he posited just this sort of technology.