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People are not ‘present’ when they attend something digitally

July 11, 2011

This article from MediaPost talks about the rise of virtual meetings:

Here are the pertinent observations:

  • 60% will increase spending on virtual events and environments in 2011, while 42% will decrease spending on physical events
  • 67% would like to host 10 or more virtual events this year
  • 87% predict hybrid (part physical, part virtual) events will represent at least half of all events in the next five years
  • 62% want the ability to attend a virtual event from a mobile device

We appear to be in for a future of meeting virtually.

None of this is new. We’ve had conference calls for years. I remember when I was in Toronto, I attended my first video conference. It was clunky, and the feeds didn’t match the visuals. The geeks in the room compared it with Japanese Monster Movies.

As time progressed, some companies even created private islands on Second Life to host virtual meetings. Since then, I’ve been in many, many virtual meetings either on the phone, or on the video phone.

One issue is attendance.

In real life, one is literally present when they are in the room. True, I have been in many real life meetings where a person in the meeting is staring at their phone. I’ve been in presentations where people watching are staring at their phone (the equivalent of the bored look).

But at least we know the person isn’t paying attention. If need be, one can circle back with that person.

Video is the answer.

With video, one needs to be present. There isn’t an option of looking away, checking Facebook, or even reading this blog post.

Whereas, when one is in a conference call they can check Facebook, have a real life chat, or read this blog post. On the phone, we don’t have to be present.

Right now, there is a problem. The problem is camera location. If you’ve been in a meeting with Skype on a computer, you know what I mean. We don’t know where to look. The camera is above the computer, but the people are on the screen.

We don’t know where to look.

Luckily, that technology issue should be in our past. The new iPad has the camera in the screen, and that technology will come to our screens.

As the MediaPost article says, this is coming. Participation will be mandatory in meetings. Meetings across disciplines can matter.

So what do you think? Have you been to virtual video meetings? How are they working?

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