Meeting Trends By the Numbers

By Heather Baldwin

A new survey by Brookline, MA-based Wainhouse Research finds that 44% of workers are taking fewer trips since Sept. 11, 2001, and that Web conferencing has grown by 62%. The survey was designed to examine business travel trends and the use of collaboration technology before and after 9/11. Results were collected online from more than 700 respondents between July 31 and August 9 this year.

While it’s said that nothing replaces the face-to-face meeting, a whopping 70% of the respondents said they were interested in alternatives to travel – and apparently they’re finding those alternatives. In addition to the 62% growth in Web conferencing, video conferencing has grown by 25% since 9/11 and audio conferencing has grown by 12%. It’s not a trend that’s likely to reverse any time soon, either, because 63% of respondents rate access to collaboration technology as very important, up from 44% prior to the terrorist attacks.

Don’t place all the blame for the shift from live to remote meetings on terrorism, however. Marc Beattie, a senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research, says the company accepted written responses and comments as part of the survey and “we came to believe that a lot of the shift is associated with the economic situation more so than security issues.”

Indeed, while video conferencing got a boost after 9/11, growth has slowed and was flat between Q1 and Q2 2002. The reason, Beattie believes, is because it requires capital expenditure, which companies have been trying to slash. “I believe organizations are constrained from buying information technology, which includes video conferencing technology,” he observes. “As much as it reduces travel cost, it’s still a capital expense and companies don’t have the money for capital expenditures right now.” Web conferencing, on the other hand, which requires no capital expenditure, saw revenues grow 25% between Q1 and Q2 2002 and Beattie says we’re likely to see its continued healthy growth over the next several years.

So before you beat yourself up over not meeting a client in person, keep in mind that many of your competitors are opting for alternative forms of meetings, as well. It’s the economic reality – and the numbers prove it.