Teleconferencing, what is the point?

TELECONFERENCING TODAY

 Amy L. Wees

October 25, 2009

Teleconferencing Today

Imagine being able to have a conversation with people all over the world in different locations, just as if they were in the same room with you. Everyone could hear each other and talk to each other with no breaks in between just like holding a normal conversation. This is what teleconferencing has done for the world, specifically government agencies such as the military and other multi-location corporations. These agencies use teleconferencing on a daily basis to talk with vital contacts no matter their location. Teleconferencing allows for everyone to meet and discuss important information to allow a business to move forward. There is even an ability to add video to the teleconference to allow the contacts to view each other as they talk; but the main importance is the ability for many people in different locations to meet any place, anytime through the ease teleconference.

So how does teleconferencing work?  Well phones and sometimes computers are connected via telephone lines, satellites, or even an internet connection.  One could use a computer with a webcam connected to it and connect to others via an online chat system such as Skype or by using a special console unit where “video and audio are compressed and then transmitted from one point to another (Walters, 2009)”.  Many of our large government agencies and multi-national corporations have specific board rooms set up with all of the technology they need to hold meetings with clients or business partners whenever necessary.  These rooms will sometimes have several microphones hanging from the ceiling and a unit that will allow just a teleconference or a video teleconference.  Government agencies even have the ability to talk over secure telephone and video lines which are critical to their line of business.

The history of teleconferencing goes all the way back to the 1980’s using analog technology with two closed circuit televisions connected via cable lines.  Later NASA used radio frequencies to hold video conferences with the first manned space flights. Satellites were also used early on via mobile vehicles.  By the 1990’s video teleconferencing became commonplace enough for the general public to afford and more and more businesses and government agencies started using it.  When ISDN became available schools and even small companies were able to afford the technology (Walters, 2009).

The advantages of teleconferencing are many.  Obviously in a large agency with multiple locations teleconferencing allows minimal travel for meeting purposes, and also allows one person to deliver a message to many listeners at one time without the need of a large meeting facility.  At Wells Fargo Mortgage Company, with over 29,000 employees working in multiple locations, the co-presidents Cara Heiden and Mike Heid used a teleconference to deliver a semi-annual update to all of their employees at one time.  “We had up to 5,000 lines into that call, with two to three people on each line,” Heiden said in an interview. “We give them insight into how we’re going to finish out the year strong (Terris & Berry, 2009).”

Another advantage is low cost communication for small businesses.  One marketing company attempting to cut costs is communicating with clients via the internet through webcasting, webinars, and teleconferencing using services which are free or charging a very small fee.  As a marketing company, they do realize that the best communication is face to face but to reach more clients and cut costs, teleconferencing is the way to go (Swift, 2009).

There are however, a few disadvantages to teleconferencing.  Obviously the ability to look someone in the eye and communicate is lacking during a teleconference.  One may be confused about who they are speaking with and who should speak when.  There is not exactly a protocol set up for a teleconference meeting type situation.  Jeff Blackmon, a writer for the Central Penn Business Journal, thinks that face to face meetings are very important and businesses that are doing away with these types of communication are wrong.  He says “There’s a battle brewing — a brouhaha— about whether it makes sense for companies and associations to be meeting in exotic locations, or even airport hotels or company headquarters. The so-called experts claim these gatherings are often time-wasters and boondoggles. That’s bunk, and they’re wrong!  I spend lots of time in lots of cities helping clients generate lots of results…. My clients tell me there’s nothing like the power of bringing their people together. To shake hands.  To chat eyeball to eyeball.  To break bread.  To laugh and learn (Blackman, 2009).”  Mr. Blackmon definitely has a point that there are true benefits to meeting face to face.

The real question is: do the benefits of face to face meetings outweigh the benefits of having the technology to meet from different places?  With today’s technology being what it is many business managers and government agencies would not succeed in their business objectives without the use of this technology.  So meeting or no meeting, teleconferencing technology is not going anywhere.  In fact the technology is improving and being used more and more every day.

References

Blackman, J. (2009, September 4). Don’t buy into the bunk — meetings can have important meaning. Central Penn Business Journal , pp. Vol. 25 Issue 36, p32-32, 1/2p.

Swift, M. (2009, September). Marketing on a Shoestring. Bank Investment Consultant , pp. 17(9), 30-34.

Terris, H., & Berry, K. (2009, September 3). Everybody There? American Banker , pp. Vol. 174 Issue 167, p9-9, 1/9p.

Walters, P. (2009). What is Video Teleconferencing? Retrieved October 25, 2009, from http://www.ehow.com: http://www.ehow.com/about_5121450_video-teleconferencing.html

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