Courtesy of Networking Pipeline Dora Vell, president of a boutique executive search firm based in Waltham, Mass., recently searched for an executive manager for a European-based telecommunications equipment/software company. Typically, such a search would have involved $20,000 in expenses for travel and video conferencing expenses, she says. By instead using Skype video, she was able to cut the bill to zero and get a better sense of who the best candidates were. This is just one example of Web conferencing, but it also highlights one of the main advantages that many experts pointed out in terms of employing Web conferencing now in your enterprise " it saves money, particularly in terms of travel expense. While that's easily been the case for international travel for several years, the escalation in gasoline prices for the last couple of years means that Web conferencing also saves money in terms of local travel experts say. While saving on travel expenses was the most often benefit and driver for installing Web conferencing now, it wasn't the only one. Aside from saving on travel expenses, these are the top reasons, according to experts: Saves time on travel "It's very time consuming to get into a plane to go to a meeting or to just get into a car and go across town," says Tricia Heinrich, vice president of corporate and internal communications for Genesys Conferencing, Montpellier France, (U.S. headquarters are in Vienna, Va.). It encourages closer contact with constituents inside and outside the organization Because Web conferencing is less costly and less time consuming than traveling to a meeting, companies can have more Web conferences than face-to-face meetings, Heinrich adds. The more communication, the closer the contact. Web conferencing provides more interaction capabilities than other forms of contact like the telephone and e-mail, she adds. Ability to multi-task "There's a growing unpopularity of face-to-face meetings," Heinrich says. "People don't think they get much done in them." While it might be easiest for some executives to have a meeting to disseminate information to several people at a single time, not all parts of a meeting affect everyone, according to Heinrich. So while all may attend a Web-based meeting, some can do other parts of their jobs (answering e-mails, calls, etc.) while waiting for the part of the meeting that affects them. However, this sort of multi-tasking also means that someone may miss part of a presentation designed for them. Easy recording for reference, archival purposes Another benefit recorded and archived training and historical knowledge, says Brian Young, vice president for information technology at Creighton University, Omaha, Neb. "Notes are not a good verbatim record of everything that was said. So Web conferencing is a good knowledge transfer method for the business." Creighton uses Web conferencing itself to communicate information to and from its Hastings Medical Center, Young adds. There is no longer much downside to Web conferencing Companies such as Genesys Conferencing have seen growth rates of 30 to 40 percent in the last year not only due to the benefits above, but also because security concerns have largely been addressed due to readily available encryption, Young says. Bandwidth was another factor that initially limited Web conferencing, Young says. But high bandwidth is readily available in offices throughout the country and remote workers can readily find free or low-cost, high-speed wireless connections for laptops at many national and regional coffee shops, restaurants and hotel chains as well as in public libraries and other areas. However, even Web conferencing proponents say that Web conferencing shouldn't be use to entirely replace face-to-face meetings, because even in a quick-growing e-commerce environment, live, in-person interaction is still necessary to strengthen relationships and to close many deals.
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