In today’s business world, it’s become more and more necessary for company representatives to meet with colleagues or clients from all over the world. Conference calls have been and still are popular for business meetings over long distances, but technology has evolved to the point where we can now speak to each other face-to-face while still being miles apart. The innovations made in telepresence have already begun to revolutionize the why companies do business with their clients, especially in these uncertain economic times. People no longer have to make expensive flights across the country or the world to meet with each other when an Internet connection and a high-quality camera can allow them to converse without the need of a telephone. Still, is telepresence really as good as meeting with a client in person? It would seem that some people think so, but others still swear by the intimacy and connection that comes from simply being in the same room as another person.
There are certainly a lot of advantages to using telepresence technology to conduct meetings. Aside from not having to spend the money to buy airplane tickets when one has to meet with a client or associate on the other side of the country, telepresence can be useful when meeting in person is simply not an option. The volcanic eruption in Iceland in the spring of 2010 caused flights around Europe to be grounded for almost a week, the 2003 SARS outbreak in China shut down commerce for two months in the entire region, and disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina prevent many kinds of travel around the world. These are the scenarios that call for a way for company representatives to meet with their clients remotely, something for which telepresence is ideal. Telepresence is also infinitely better than a conference call; a lot of communication through body language and facial expressions that would carry through a telepresence system would be lost in a simple telephone call.
Despite all the advantages that telepresence provides, there are still many who believe that it cannot completely replace face-to-face meetings. Telepresence may be the closest thing to meeting in person, but it doesn’t offer the intimacy and connection of in-person encounters. A person can learn a lot about somebody just by being face-to-face with him or her. Being able to look somebody in the eye and giving a firm handshake are important, and they are just two things that just can’t be done over a remote connection. Being able to meet in person also allows people to make idle small talk, which can not only tell a lot about a person but it can accomplish more work than many people realize.
While telepresence may look like the wave of the future in business meetings, they should never completely replace face-to-face meetings.