Why do we like to actually be in the same physical space as the other people when we have a meeting with them? Can a meeting be more successful or focussed if it is by videoconference? Is brain-storming more suitable to a ‘real’ meeting? What about a job interview? What actually ‘works’ in videoconferencing and what doesn’t work as well? Do we enjoy a day out of the office, collecting our thoughts while travelling perhaps, and embedding our professional relationships with people whilst chatting over sandwiches and profiteroles?
These are the kinds of questions that this project is trying to tackle. This should help us identify those types of activities that can more easily be replaced by videoconferences, and thus reduce travel costs (in energy, time and money). As the project progresses it is planned to build up case studies of “before, during and after” as different groups transition from not using videoconferencing to using it for some of their meetings and – hopefully – integrating it into the working practices of the group.
This project will beseeking to identify suitable distributed groups in Wales that currently meet by travelling to a single point some where in Wales and holding an actual meeting, and trying to help them transition to holding at least some of those meetings by videoconference. One such group is the Welsh Higher Education Staff development network, who meet either in Cardiff or Aberystwyth. I met with the group in May and discussed the possibilities with them.
They meet a few times a year and the meeting in Aberyswyth was typical. People had travelled from Bangor, Lampeter, Pontypridd, Cardiff and Swansea in cars to the meeting. This had resulted in round trips totalling 807 miles and releasing 238kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. This group is not unusual and there are many groups that meet up around Wales during the year, with people driving from the main towns and cities. If they all just held one meeting by videoconference it would save so much time and money – let alone CO2! These meetings also generate expenses claims for food and drink, and even cause people to have to stay away from home overnight!
I gave the group a presentation and the group kindly agreed to test out holding some of their meetings by videoconference. I talked to two of the group regarding their anticipation of the pros and cons of using videoconferencing and the interview can be seen at youtube.