The massive communications failure at a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facility yesterday no doubt left plenty of businesspeople stranded at airports all across the country. There were probably thousands of people flying around for meetings, training sessions, seminars, conferences, and other detritus associated with the corporate world. The question is, why? If the Internet has given us one thing, it's the power to connect without all the hassle of travel.
If your company relies heavily on flying its employees all over the place for in-house meetings, it's time to rethink that approach. There are dozens of Web-based tools available to make even the most important brainstorming sessions take place as easily as if attendees were in the same room.
The simplest way to bring a team together for a meeting is via conference calling. If the company phone system can't handle conference calling, there are plenty of free or low-cost online options to choose from. With services like AtConference or Skype all participants need is a telephone -- even a mobile phone will do. Simply dial the toll-free number, enter the code assigned to your specific meeting, and the service will do the rest. This is a particularly great option for sales teams since participants can call in from the road, no special equipment needed.
If your team needs to brainstorm "on paper" or collaborate on documents, then you'll need some sort of virtual whiteboard to capture thoughts, notes, and ideas. If your business already has Microsoft NetMeeting, then you're all set. If not, there are several good online services like Writeboard and skrbl.
If you want to kick things up a notch and get a little interactive, consider holding your meeting over UStream or another online video service. All the meeting administrator needs is a Web cam to stream video, meeting attendees log into the stream's private chat room to participate. Since interaction between the meeting administrator and participants is rather limited, this approach works best for training sessions or other situations where the audience can be a bit more passive.
If it's the personal touch of meetings you're after, it doesn't get much more interactive than video-conferencing. With services like WebEx and AccuConference it's possible to hold meetings that are practically face-to-face using only a computer and a Web cam. With most services, it's not necessary to download additional software, making this a very simple solution rather than flying people to a central location from all over the map.
With so many conferencing options available to businesses these days, there are fewer and fewer reasons to haul yourself to an airport and risk delayed flights just to talk with the other people on your team. Are video conferences the wave of the future?