Face-to-face meetings remain a key part of business, but travel restrictions could help the acceptance rates of virtual conferences as an alternative

It is widely accepted that face-to-face meetings are – and will remain – a key part of business. Put simply, they allow for clearer communication. In addition to being able to read facial expressions, body language, and inflection, in-person meetings often end up being more positive, and considered more credible than online or virtual conversations.

But with advances in technology now making it easier and cheaper to communicate and needs for businesses to consider the ‘value’ of travel to facilitate face-to-face meetings as part of sustainability strategies, there has been increasing pressure to reduce corporate travel to help the environment.

While most businesses have announced their commitment to the sustainability agenda, there is limited evidence that they are truly reducing their corporate travel spends. The current coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has already forced the postponement and cancellation of meetings and events and the significant travel restrictions now limit international travel across much of the world.

This will provide a window into the world of digital events and virtual conferences for many businesses and could significantly advance adoption rates.

The rising impact of health concerns around the coronavirus is forcing organisations to reconsider, cancel or postpone their annual gatherings. But, application and review software platform, OpenWater, has highlighted how these physical conferences can be quickly converted to a virtual conference while the coronavirus continues to impact conferences, events and meetings.

Its COVID-19 Emergency Guide is a downloadable guide and instructional video that shows step-by-step how a business can easily transition a physical event into a virtual event using Zoom, or similar meeting tools like GoToMeeting.

At a time that social distancing and working from home is become the new normal, as opposed to increasing risks to physical health or completely cancelling an event or meeting, virtual conferences mean that attendees can still benefit and view recordings from any session while keeping their sponsors happy by allowing them to have dedicated virtual sessions or incorporating them in the beginning or middle of a session.

“We know how important meetings and conferences are to the overall success of organisations each year,” explains Kunal Johar, CTO of OpenWater. “We know a face to face meeting is irreplaceable, however there are parts of a conference that can be salvaged, and we hope this guide gives a quick start to event managers who might be in a panic.”

OpenWater hopes that by following its guide, event managers can transition their event to be virtual in one day “with ease and without prior tech experience”. At the this time of uncertainty, attendees can “also be at peace knowing their health is protected,” it adds.

This is just one of many ways that the meetings and events community can continue to exist while travel restrictions remain in place and until public confidence reignites the demand for travel. The question is: will the enforced use of technology during this challenging period change the way we do business in the future? In our view, the answer is that while some might stick with the tech, it will not dilute the importance that remains with face-to-face networking.

Collaboration and conferencing tools have made the way we communicate super fast and convenient and will remain essential for conducting day-to-day business. But when it’s very important business, nothing is as effective as a face-to-face meeting! In fact a Harvard Business Review study says face-to-face requests are 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than emails. That’s a big difference!

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