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Meetings in America I: A Study of Trends, Costs and Attitudes Toward Business Travel, Teleconferencing and Their Impact on Productivity

A 1998 study conducted by Verizon Conferencing, "Meetings in America: A Study of Trends, Costs and Attitudes Toward Business Travel, Teleconferencing and Their Impact on Productivity," found the typical professional attends more than 60 meetings a month, and more than a third of them are rated unproductive. Most of these meetings are conducted in person and when travel is involved, meeting costs quickly add up. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents had replaced a face-to-face meeting with a videoconference, showing the technology is becoming a more widely accepted way of doing business.

Key Research Findings

On the Road Again
  • American business travelers are under the gun. Over eight of ten of respondents say they are under more pressure to reduce travel costs.
  • Business people are meeting more than ever. Forty-six percent of professionals are attending more meetings than they were a year ago, and only eight percent are attending fewer meetings.
  • About a quarter of respondents look forward to business travel and 21 percent dislike it. "Travel fans" are less likely than "travel foes" to have spouses and children.
  • Business professionals find frustration when flying. Flight delays and being cramped in coach seating are the most common irritations for business travelers.
  • Conference calls cut costs. With the average plane trip cost of nearly $1,400 in hard and soft costs, a person who travels by plane four times per month spends nearly $5,500 per month. Replacing two of the plane trips with videoconferencing yields savings more than $2,000.
  • Smaller, more cost-conscious firms tend to spend less for meeting-related travel costs, lodging and meals than Fortune 500 companies. Smaller companies tend also to make fewer trips involving airplane travel, a major component in travel costs.
Men Meet on Mars, Women Meet on Venus
  • Women make more arrangements before embarking. In an effort to balance home and work, women do not miss meetings because of other priorities any more than men. However, over half of the women say making arrangements to take care of personal responsibilities while they're away is stressful, while four of ten men had the same reaction.
  • Men find it harder to be away. Three out of four men describe being away from the family on business travel as stressful (compared to 56 percent of women).
  • Women prefer to use the phone. Men have a greater preference for in-person meetings, and attend more in-person meetings than women. Women prefer conference calls more than men do.
  • Preparation takes time. Business professionals spend more than twice as much time preparing for in-person meetings as they do preparing for conference calls.
  • We all do it, but just donít get caught. Nine of ten people have daydreamed during a meeting, and four of ten say they've dozed off. More men have fallen asleep in meetings than women (41 percent versus 31 percent).
  • Hey, look at me! Respondents agree almost unanimously about the most important benefit of meetings: 92 percent feel meetings provide an opportunity to contribute.
Lowering Costs and Raising Effectiveness of Meetings

Based on the Meetings in America research, Verizon Conferencing offers the following recommendations to improve the quality of meetings and lower meeting costs:

  • Match the meeting purpose to the meeting method. Conducting recurring meetings, such as staff meetings and project updates, via audio or videoconferencing is more time and cost effective than traveling on a plane to a meeting. In certain cases, in-person meetings are beneficial to build rapport and establish relationships.
  • Think before you fly. Consider both hard and soft costs when determining how and where to meet. For each meeting you travel to, consider if travel is necessary to conduct business.
  • Replace some travel with conferencing. Conference calls are not a replacement for all business travel, but more often than not, a conference call can accomplish the task at hand and save the hassle, time and cost of travel.