Having experienced a nightmare train journey this week (4 hours there, 6 hours back due to signalling problems, passenger alarm cords being pulled etc), I find myself very much thinking about the benefits of video conferencing.
Not only are travel costs vastly reduced, but hours of what could be productive work time are also not wasted on public transport, helping to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The traditional telephone call is all very well, but in some instances it helps to see the person you are talking to, or to be able to see a product you are talking about, making the time spent talking much more effective. In addition, being able to see non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language can help to prevent misunderstandings and make meetings a lot more personal and productive.
However, physical face-to-face interactions with colleagues, customers and the like will never be replaced. A handshake can never be done virtually and, of course, there is always the danger that technology will let you down at a crucial moment. Working in the PR industry, a bad first impression would be created with fuzzy images, lack of sound, or some other techie issue.
There is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting for getting to know someone. Chatting over a coffee or during lunch is when relationships are made stronger as the people involved become real – far more so than an image on screen, or a voice on the phone. Building relationships is key in PR and such meetings play an important role in developing future working relationships.
Overall, video conferencing is a great way of keeping a personal element to a relationship, and of having more (and better) meetings. But for cementing a relationship, then face to face will remain king.