Advantages of Virtual Sessions

Virtual sessions save money, but not necessarily in the way one might expect

Virtual meetings are less expensive and can be more effective than in-person ones, but not in the ways you might expect. We need to take account of hard costs, soft costs, and soft benefits.

Hard cost savings

  • Virtual events reduce hard travel costs (no airfare, ground transportation, hotel, conference rooms, meals, and so forth), which could easily amount to $100,000 for a three-day, 25-person, off-site meeting.

Soft benefits

Virtual sessions offer several intangible, yet significant, benefits.

  • Strategic alignment: The organization lives its values especially relative to ESG commitments (Environmental, Social, and Governance, including carbon foot-prints).

  • No travel time to the meeting venue, thus virtually eliminating the associated opportunity cost. Opportunity cost answers the question: could something more useful be done with this time?

  • Participants from various locations can easily participate.

  • A series of short virtual meetings (say, 6 sessions of 2 hours = 12 hours) provides a much higher quality output than an equivalent two-day in-person meeting (2 days, 6 hours of work-sessions per day).

  • A 2-day or 3-day in-person off-site meeting has never been an effective way to create innovative strategies.  This is due to information overload, no incubation time between sessions, the session leader has no opportunity to digest output of exercise 1 and use it as input to exercise 2, and participant fatigue.​

Soft costs

  • “Virtual” is clearly not the same as in-person interactions, although online collaboration tools have made great strides in closing the gap.

 

Hard costs

  • Virtual facilitated work sessions and training sessions do have an additional hard cost that you may not accrue in an in-person meeting: technical support and management.

  • As an example, an in-person meeting with 25 participants may only need a multi-media projector or big-screen monitor to run PPT presentations. Participants can easily move chairs to gather in break-out groups. Interactions take place around a flip-chart and the only tools needed are good instructions and markers.

  • In a virtual setting, expert technical management is required to do the same thing.

Why is professional technical support critical for virtual sessions?

  • Virtual meetings have evolved tremendously from the early days of bumbling through a first online meeting where people couldn’t figure out how to unmute their microphone or share their screen.

  • Necessity is the mother of invention.

    • There has been a proliferation of digital collaboration tools and video-conferencing platforms, each adding new features at a dizzying pace.

    • Meanwhile, there is a divergence in the industry where the most innovative collaboration and engagement tools do not have video conferencing capabilities. On the other end, popular video-conferencing platforms have break-out room functionality, but their native collaboration tools are somewhat rudimentary.

    • In the current situation, the best participant experience is derived from using both types of tools (collaboration and video-conferencing) simultaneously. This is a herculean task for a sole facilitator, unless the meeting design is very simple. Today’s knowledge workers are over-booked and virtual-meeting-fatigued, so the use of effective and varied engagement tools becomes so much more important to successful meetings.

  • Technical management partners provide the necessary support for basic technical management of a virtual event such as a facilitated meeting or training session. They can also handle more complex situations, e.g., 3rd party engagement tools, very large groups, hybrid sessions, dedicated technical support in each break-out room for business simulations, and so forth.
     

Snapshot of the pre-planning and technical support required for an event (i.e., a single virtual meeting)

Technical support for virtual sessions

Note: Multi-meeting mandates will realize time and cost efficiencies in the planning, pre-production and dry-run stages.