Green teleconferencing: The wave of the future
There are lots of alternatives to air travel for face-to-face meetings.
Thu, Aug 19, 2010 at 03:13 PM
GOING GREEN: You can use technology to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel from face-to-face meetings. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Even if you don’t call it green teleconferencing, that’s what you’re doing when you skip the airfare and connect via the Internet.
Business travel has exploded in the past 10 years as companies seek new markets around the country and across the globe.
At the same time, there’s a greater awareness that traveling, particularly by plane, contributes heavily to global warming. The average American has a carbon footprint of about 50,000 pounds a year, according to CarbonFund.org. And a large part of those emissions comes from air travel.
A four-hour flight — about the length of a trip from New York to Dallas — produces 1,250 pounds of carbon emissions for each passenger, according to Terrapass.
A solution is green teleconferencing. Software advances have made it possible for people all over the country and indeed the world to convene meetings, hold conference calls, and participate in training without ever leaving the office.
Advantages of green teleconferencing
One of the main advantages to teleconferencing is the complete elimination of disruptions. The productivity of the work week isn’t interrupted by conference preparation and travel.
And flight delays cease to be a problem.
In recent years, natural and man-made emergencies have caused widespread disruptions in air travel. These situations have stranded millions of travelers who were on their way to meetings and conferences.
Teleconferencing also allows more participants to take part. Companies and organizations of all sizes are cutting expenses. And travel expenses are often the first thing companies eliminate during the budgeting process.
The most traditional way to hold a meeting with participants scattered around the country is audio teleconferencing that takes place via the telephone.
Typically participants are given an 800-number to dial and a conference identification number.
They dial into the conference from their desks or wherever it’s most convenient.
Teleconferences are widely used on Wall Street when companies need to communicate their quarterly and annual earnings to shareholders, investment analysts and journalists.
Increasingly, teleconferencing is also used by hard-to-reach executives and elected officials who are on the road more often than in the office, but who still need to touch base with employees, constituents and the news media.
Large, multinational companies use teleconferencing to connect employees who work on the same team but are stationed in different offices. In these instances, teleconferencing is often used to provide regular updates on a particular project where it’s not feasible for employees to meet in the same location week after week or month after month.
Users of teleconferencing services have various options at different price points. For example, some conference calls use operators who provide assistance and instructions.
Other teleconferences are completely organized and run by the participants.
Some of the biggest providers of teleconferencing services are traditional telecommunications companies, such as AT&T.
Videoconferencing and Webinars
While videoconferencing is a much newer technology than teleconferencing, it’s quickly catching on.
Videoconferencing allows participants to see something in addition to hearing something.
Presenters can also use slides or other materials to make their points. And they can demonstrate products and techniques to participants. That’s especially helpful when companies need to train employees.
Webinars are the latest twist on this trend.
Webinars, or online seminars, allow people to participate in training over the Internet. Typically, the person conducting the Webinar can be seen via a small camera mounted on his or her computer. Participants can often type questions or comments in a Webchat box that appears as a window on their computer screens.
Another screen window on the computer allows the conference organizers to show slides, or provide other information such as links.
Some of the companies that make web meeting software include Adobe and Citrix Online, whose product GoToMeeting is taking off.
PGi combines Adobe Connect with its own automated audio services to provide web-conferencing software for facilitating online meetings, training, web seminars and presentations.
Other green conference solutions
In lieu of or in addition to teleconferencing and videoconferencing, companies are also greening up meetings.
For example, many conference organizers now dispense with the obligatory binder filled with meeting agendas, handouts and other paper documents.
Instead, participants receive a CD or a flash drive that includes all of that information.
Conference organizers are also increasingly using recycled paper for those handouts that must be printed.