A remarkable 96 percent of meeting and event planners report that their organizations use virtual meetings solutionsâ€”either Web-based meetings, videoconferencing, or TelePresence. That finding comes from a comprehensive and wide-ranging study on and spending released earlier this summer by travel-management giant Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Minnetonka, Minn.
The report cites a convergence of factors that have increased the use of virtual meetings over the past few years, including improved technology and increased cost pressure, as well as organizationsâ€™ interest in limiting the environmental impact of their meetings and improving their employeesâ€™ productivity and work-life balance. Of the 96 percent of respondents who use virtual meeting solutions, 42 percent are focused on videoconferencing, 32 percent on Web-based meetings, and 22 percent on TelePresence.
The reportâ€™s authors note several points related to TelePresenceâ€™s evolution: first, recent growth in in-house company systems and public TelePresence rooms in hotels and other venues, and second, that the high-usage rates of TelePresence rooms make the cost of ownership over time comparable to videoconferencing systems. Videoconferencing systems cost far less but their average weekly use is just 2.5 to 4 hours compared to in-house TelePresence rooms that average 20 to 25 hours of use each week.
According to the study, meeting and event planners expect continued expansion in the virtual sector over the next three years. For meetings, 30 percent of respondents predict growth of more than 10 percent and 38 percent expect moderate growth of less than 10 percent. The balance expects little or no growth (15 percent) or donâ€™t know (17 percent).
A majority of attendees appear to approve of the shift. When researchers asked meeting attendees to respond to the statement, â€śVirtual meetings should replace 20 percent to 30 percent of small meetings,â€ť 71 percent agreed or strongly agreed. And in response to the statement, â€śVirtual meetings can perfectly replace small team meetings,â€ť 66 percent agreed or strongly agreed.
The CWT report, â€śMeetings and Events: Where Savings Meet Success,â€ť conducted by the CWT Travel Management Institute, is based on research carried out between September 2009 and March 2010 that included a survey of 222 meeting planners and requesters from 15 countries across North America and Europe; an online attendee survey, completed by more than 2,300 respondents from six countries; interviews with more than 40 meeting experts from full-service agencies, hotel chains, trade associations, and corporations; a quantitative analysis of CWT client data; and two comprehensive corporate case studies. CWTâ€™s technology partner in the research project was StarCite, whose â€śStrategic Value Analysisâ€ť tool was used.