Webcasts miss the social tack

The Special Report on business presentations “Going the distance” (MW May 28) seemed to miss the point. Yes, there is a market for Webcasting and for video conferencing and there is still a market for live events that’s likely to be there for many years yet. But the real point was missed by the article; communication is not about the technology, it is about the techniques.

It is true that the ability to beam the chairman’s face onto a PC screen could be an advantage, although where Francios Mazoudier gets the idea that people are waiting in their thousands to see a message from the chairman beats me.

But there is a risk in this. Suppose the chairman does begin making regular Webcasts. They may be watched initially because they will have a novelty value, but unless the chairman takes care to make sure that every Webcast really communicates, interest will wane very quickly. The risk is that all this technology will only enable companies to generate even more material that fails to communicate.

Psychologists tell us that the social aspects of work are as important as money when it comes to the reasons we go to work. Where will the remote conferencing networks leave us in terms of social contact?

Again, people at work need to talk to each other on an ad-hoc basis. This opportunity to talk through work problems is also one of the factors that will ensure a continuing need for live events. Have a remote meeting and there can be no networking over lunch or in the bar.

Nor will remote conferencing allow an employer to encourage employees to identify with the team of which they are a part.

But the idea that bothers me is the proliferation of Webmeeting dross. There is a real danger that this technology will follow in the steps of Websites. If the evangelists have their way, companies will start using Webmeetings, not because they understand them or have a need for them, but because they can have them.

So what needs to be done? It is very simple. Companies have to figure out what their communication needs are and choose the right technique because it suits the need, not because it is the latest gizmo.

Ken Clayton

Managing director

Michael Rines Communications



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