Tools to Replace Business Travel

January 29, 2009

If you're like many companies, you've cut down on business travel to save some cash. As a result, videoconferencing use has spiked.

If you're like many companies, you've cut down on business travel to save some cash. As a result, videoconferencing use has spiked.

I recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In years past, the show boasted 140,000+ attendees. This year, attendance contracted to barely 110,000 people. You may think 110,000 is still a lot of people to attend a trade show—and it is—but it was noticeably quieter around town compared to years past. Why such a drop in attendance? The economy. Companies are looking for ways to cut costs, and halting business travel is one way to do that.

But business must go on. How are you going to conduct face-to-face meetings without actually meeting face-to-face? Enter videoconferencing.

"Given the tough economic conditions, we expect the slowdown in business travel to continue," said Regus Group CEO Mark Dixon. "The quality of virtual tools available have improved so dramatically in recent years; I can't imagine any company reverting back to its old way of conducting a meeting."

The Regus Group has seen a 40% increase in the use of its videoconferencing solutions. As a journalist who covers technology, I've also noticed a dramatic slow-down in the number of press tours I am invited to attend. Companies aren't sending their representatives to New York City for every new product launch. Instead, I am getting more briefings over the phone and through the Web. Some of my briefings have been via videoconference. For the most part, they are just as effective as in-person meetings, especially if the meeting's content will include only a PowerPoint deck.

"Remote meetings enable effective collaboration among dispersed colleagues and eliminates the headaches and high-cost of travel," added Dixon. "Companies can also help the environment by hosting a videoconference—lower hydrocarbon emissions, reduced fuel consumption and less traffic congestion makes videoconferencing a greener way to work."

The tools available to businesses today are powerful. More and more office suits include the ability to see "presence," which tells others that you're available to chat via IM, talk on the phone, etc.

If you find your practice or healthcare organization is strapped for cash and had to clamp down on business travel, consider vidoeconferencing or other tools as a way to make sure your business moves forward while staying put.