The accelerating pace of change has profoundly altered the ways companies communicate with their people. That was the unanimous conclusion of a recent panel discussion in New York sponsored by the International Association of Conference Centers and moderated by Dave Arnold, senior partner, PKF Consulting.

Panelist Pat Coglianese, senior vice president of education for Chase Manhattan Bank, said he spends much of his effort on ad hoc meetings "to draw teams together to get up to speed very quickly. We bring people together in small and large groups, in virtual ways and in real ways, help them to address their goals, and then move on."

Steven Kerr, vice president of learning at General Electric Co., said that as employees become increasingly dispersed in many different locations, "the less possible it is to bring people together for meetings or training, and the company relies on electronic communication. We think increasingly of our conference center as a broadcast center."

The virtual communication theme was echoed by the third panelist, Bellamy Schmidt, vice president at JP Morgan. "We're in businesses now that we weren't in five years ago, and five years from now we'll be in businesses that we aren't in today," he said. "It means we have to communicate internally and with customers and clients, and it means delivering technical messages with new technologies."

All the panelists stressed that both virtual meetings and face-to-face meetings have their place. "At Chase, we have an internalized, formal process for managing learning," said Coglianese, "but we can't do just classroom programs any longer--we have too many people. So we analyze the situation to come up with the best approach for learning."