#Business#business travel#teleconferencing

Travel Versus Teleconference: The Great Debate

|Apr 9|magazine16 min read

Written by Peter Walters

 

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Like working in your pyjamas? Prefer a conference call over a six-hour flight?

These days travelling for business can be tedious and expensive. Luckily, new companies and technologies are enabling teleconferencing to make meetings with distributed workforces simple, and often times, free.

Despite that notion, there are still many businesses that need to sit down and analyse the pros and cons of travel and teleconferencing.

Among them >>>

Pros of Travel

  • Meeting face to face There’s something vitally important about having physical meeting with other people. We understand subtle cues from body language, eye contact and even something as seemingly simple as a handshake.
  • It shows that you’re serious Even if you just visit a client company for an hour from across the country, it shows them that your relationship is important-- that you care. The client recognises that you went above and beyond the call – the more affordable and “easy” option, and actually got on a plane. That says something. 
  • See new parts of the world (or country) There’s something exciting about exploring the world, even if it’s for work. New cities are fun to explore, and sometimes your company will even pay for your food. Go visit an old friend when you’re done with your meetings.
  • Travel rewards and points Everybody loves free miles. When your company reimburses you for travel, you get the benefit of the points, without the costs. (Not to mention you are now free to drink vodka at 9 a.m!)
  • Evaluate your partners’ work A company’s office and culture speak volumes about their values, work ethic and overall professionalism. Travelling to meet your current or prospective partners could be enormously valuable in the long term. Maybe you’ll find yourself in a dirty garage thinking it was a fancy office. A quick trip will get to the bottom of your assumptions about a client or partner instantly.

Cons of Travel

  • Costs Travelling is expensive these days. Trains often cost more than planes sometimes. Not only do you need to purchase a plane ticket, but you’ll also need to book a hotel room, pay for food, and likely a whole host of other small expenses like cabs, presentation supplies and the like.
  • Sleep deprivation Companies are always trying to save money. In doing so, they’ll try to find the cheapest flights that they can. As such, you’ll often find yourself on the redeye flight, arriving at your destination at 4 a.m. Not fun, and you’ll probably be exhausted for your meeting all day.
  • You may get behind on work Many airlines still don’t have Wi-Fi for passengers to use, and when they do, you’re typically seated next to the most irritating person on the plane, right? Travelling for work can make you need to play catch up over the weekend. Between meetings, travel and food, you’re left little time to actually get your daily work done.
  • Family Families run like well-oiled machines. If something breaks for even a second (you travelling for a few days), the whole machine needs to be repaired (enter nanny, housekeepers, takeout food, etc). Your spouse will need to pick up the slack somehow when you’re gone. Keep this in mind before you raise your hand for a weeklong trip at work.

Teleconferencing also has its advantages and disadvantages >>>

Pros of Teleconferencing

  • Keep your “rhythm”  Everyone has daily and weekly routines. Teleconferencing enables you to be “be there” without actually being there. When you go to the gym every day, have dinner with your family, and have other obligations at home, teleconferencing makes distant meetings easy, and your habits intact.
  • More people, more focus If you have a team or clients around the world, it’s not likely that everyone can make the meeting. Teleconferencing bridges the physical gap with a computer or phone line. Share documents or slides effortlessly to everyone across screens for webinars, trainings, or briefings.
  • Saving money While a con of travelling, this is a pro for teleconferencing. No hotels, flight or extra meal expenses. You can teleconference from the office or even at home. Sometimes it’s worth it.

Cons of teleconferencing

  • Body language Eighty per cent of communication habits occur non-verbally. By not travelling, you’re missing often important cues from customers or clients.
  • Focus Hello, are you listening? It’s easy to zone out and start doing other things when you’re on a conference call. A colleague comes by, you mute your line and attend to them for five minutes, all the while missing potentially important information on the call. It’s often tough to remain focused throughout an entire hour long call.
  • Difficult sharing Sharing documents, new collateral designs and slideshows is more difficult remotely. It’s possible using sites like SlideShare, but definitely not the same as holding a new prototype.

 

While these lists are not exhaustive, they should give you a good basis for deciding whether to take that next trip for work, or staying in the office (or at home) and picking up the phone.

If you have the money, and a visit will be valuable to strengthen a business relationship, take the trip. Make sure your family will be okay, that you don’t have any huge deadlines that need to be met while you’re gone, and generally that things will run smoothly in your absence.

If the meeting isn’t all that important, the client just “might” become a partner, it might be worth some conference calls first. It will likely save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

 

About The Author

Peter Walters is a freelance writer for sites like Reputation.com, The Huffington Postand others. He is the Director of Business Dev. & Partnership for Two Degrees Foodand lives in San Francisco.