Andy Abramson writes about how video conferencing from a client company like SightSpeed is better than Cisco's Tele-Presence. On Sept. 22, Brian Carroll is having a tele-seminar on "Email vs. Phone vs. In-Person Meeting". Keith Rosen, a respected sales coach, would tell you that, especially in today's economic climate, nothing beats a face-to-face or a phone call. Keith writes about how Sales 2.0 is diluting inter-personal communications. (If you have ever received an email from someone that using text messaging a lot, you will see what he means).
As one commenter wrote to Andy, Tele-Presence is a richer experience. Well, it should be for equipment that is in excess of $50K per site. Even this price barrier is being removed by companies like WBS Connect leasing out tele-presence rooms for business use.
Another point is that many tele-workers don't want to shave and dress for video conferencing. There's no IT guy at the home office to help with the video conference set-up. Messing with the webcam and the software is a pain and when you have so much to do in 8 hours, dialing a conference bridge is easy. Even that isn't fool-proof as quite a few times stuff has happened to hamper that easy tool.
Maybe the differentiating factor will be personal interaction. When I see couples at restaurants and one or both are on the cell phone, I have to wonder what are they doing. That's a live person that traveled to meet you. Talk to that person. And the yakking in the car while driving WITH other people in the car. This society is in for a wake-up call and it will come when most of us are too weak to fight back.
You can't get a human on the phone but ChaCha pays humans to run your Google search while you are mobile. Go figure. Maybe the differentiator to a sale will be the personal touch.
Is travel is mess? Yes. Will virtual conferences replace real ones like IT Expo West next week? No. It's about the hand-shake; the meals, drinks and ideas shared. It's about getting a read from someone live. That is not easily replaced. That said, tele-presence as a 3-D meeting experience might work for second or third meetings to go over details or brainstorm or for product demos or training.
Video conferencing like SightSpeed and tokbox can replace phone calls (if we can figure out how to make them on demand like a phone call instead of scheduled). And I need to start replacing some IM and email with the phone. I pay for a landline, a VoIP line, and a cell phone. I need to use it more and the keyboard less.