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Telepresence – did we miss it?

If you cast your mind back just a few years, you may recall a time when it seemed that everyone was talking about telepresence.

It was set to revolutionise the way we did business, transform the way we communicated, and eliminate the need for business travel. You couldn’t look sideways without hearing about the benefits of this revolutionary technology, and it’s safe to say that there was a good amount of fear instilled into the minds of business travel providers.

Now that the technology has been in place for a number of years – and embraced by companies globally – I wonder whether it has lived up to its grand promises? While there is certainly a time and a place for telepresence, I don’t believe that it has proven to be the game-changer many had anticipated. The reason? At the end of the day, the value of face-to-face communication simply can’t be replicated through a screen. The nuances of body language, the moments that occur outside of a meeting room, and the exchange of a firm handshake provide immense value when building relationships.

As organisations look to cut costs, there is always a temptation to cut travel budgets, particularly when alternatives like telepresence are so readily available. And while telepresence may be an attractive option for certain situations, there are some scenarios that do require face-to-face interaction for maximum impact.

Growing a business

When it comes to pitching for new business or forging new relationships, face-to-face communication is essential. With physical interactions, salespeople and executives can better read non-verbal cues, and can make a point of truly understanding what matters to a potential client; which is critical to business growth. New research: Does the future have room for face to face communication? - undertaken by imago and Loughborough University School of Business and Economics in conjunction with The Right Solution - found that 87.6% of respondents believed that face-to-face communication contributed to the effectiveness of negotiations for contracts or business deals, compared to other forms of communication.

Keeping customers happy

If you’re keen to show a customer that they’re important, cancelling a face-to-face meeting is no way to go about it. Important customers should be treated as just that – important. To continue building strong relationships and to ensure your customers’ needs are heard and actioned, interacting one-on-one is critical. Even the most technologically savvy customers appreciate meeting in a face-to-face environment, and recognising that their business is valuable to your organisation.

Education and training

When you’re building your team, there’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction. The relationships that are made in education, training and team building sessions are often paramount to the success of working teams. In fact, the same research found that 88% believed that group interactions and discussions were the key benefit of meeting face-to-face in a learning environment. 84.6% also found that learning new skills was more effective in a face-to-face environment. Taking it a step further, 94.6% of respondents believed that meeting face-to-face was essential in an interview environment to find the right candidate for a role.

In these types of situations, there’s no better solution than bringing people together. Of course, this can only be facilitated by business travel, but it doesn’t need to break the bank. Affordable, efficient travel is more accessible than ever before. Business trips can be made in a way that doesn’t impact employee productivity, and has minimal financial impact. By choosing the right suppliers for their needs, businesses can gain maximum value from their investment in travel where it matters most. It just makes business sense.

Anthony Drury
Head of Business, easyJet

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