In my most recent blog entry, I addressed the videoconferencing conundrum—how videoconferencing is good for the environment on the one hand but bad for the travel industry on the other. For those who are concerned about travel disappearing thanks to technology, there is some reason not to fear according to a Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Affordable Meetings National and Event Technology Expo pre-conference survey. The survey, conducted by J. Spargo & Associates, Inc. and independently analyzed by 2020 Assessment—a service of HVS—found that many planners believe that certain elements of face-to-face conferences cannot be duplicated with today’s technology.
Seventy-six percent of meeting planners attending the HSMAI Affordable Meeting at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9 to 10, 2009, stated that they used technology mostly for marketing efforts, followed by making presentations (68 percent) and networking (56 percent). However, survey results suggest that technology reportedly cannot replace at least six elements of the conference experience: 1) socializing and networking spontaneously, 2) helping attendees best put names with faces, 3) allowing more free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters, 4) training effectively via live and personal interaction, 5) paying greater attention to others when face to face, and 6) engaging in real-time conversation that is not interrupted by technical glitches.
“While the ‘always on the job’ mentality of meeting planners tends to rely on the latest technological tools for marketing, presentations and networking, there is clearly a ‘man over machine’ mindset when it comes to other elements of meetings and conferences,” says Dr. James Houran of 2020 Assessment. “Thus, the popular push for more teleconferences or Internet-based meetings, even for smaller groups, may ultimately not meet critical needs of attendees.”
What are your thoughts? At what point is a face-to-face meeting necessary or not necessary? Even if it is a meeting within your own organization and not with a client or potential client?