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We know we are at an evolutionary tipping point when a new eponym infiltrates our lingo. You’ll “Xerox” a document, “Google” a term, and “Uber it” to work. And now, we have the rise of “Let’s Zoom” and “We’ll WebEx” – a corporate trend indicative of virtual meetings increasingly becoming
the new normal to meet business objectives.
The COVID-19 Catalyst
Come to think of it, the rise of digitalization and the shift to a virtual way of working was already in motion before the pandemic. COVID-19 has merely served to accelerate this shift. Even before the pandemic brought the corporate world to its knees, the global market for virtual meeting platforms was estimated at USD 3bn and poised to grow at a CAGR of 9.8%.
With the coronavirus forcing a new work-from-home culture, these projections have gone for a toss. In March, virtual meeting apps saw 62m downloads in just one week, with Webex registering a record 324m participants. Installations of Zoom’s mobile app has “zoomed” a whopping 728% in the last two months. And, quite predictably, a range of new virtual meeting platforms have cropped up. It’s clear that corporates see virtual meeting platforms as the key to new-age business growth.
Virtual meetings and corporate growth
Scale, cost, and speed. Successful corporate growth is a function of these 3 variables. Scale determines how you amplify the top line of your business, expand your workforce, and bulk up your balance sheet. Controlling costs is integral to the bottom line. Finally, speed determines how fast and efficiently the business can scale up, keeping costs under control.
Virtual meetings offer a convenient sweet spot enabling an interplay of these variables. Corporates are increasingly realizing how to video conference technology can bring together large masses of geographically dispersed participants, significantly cutting down on costs and majorly speeding up communication and decision-making.
The virtual conference room
Traditional meetings in the corporate workspace have not been the most efficient way of doing business. First, there is the hindrance of booking a conference room. Corporate workplace design takes into account a minimum number of meeting rooms to be made available. However, meetings seem to have become the sole purpose of going to the office, and many a time, one needs to reschedule a meeting because of the unavailability of a meeting room.
Second, there is always a limited number of participants in a conference room that can accommodate. Third, meetings are often cancelled because geographically dispersed participants are unable to travel on that particular day. Fourth, think of all the additional associated resources – tea, coffee, snacks, electronic hardware. Limited reach, delays, and additional costs – it’s surprising that till now, corporates have been blind to the foolhardiness of physical meetings.
Virtual meetings seem to be a promising replacement for this practice. The unavailability of conference rooms ceases to be a hindrance. One can accommodate several people on a virtual meeting platform, the numbers often going into 100s. Location is no longer a factor to consider – everyone can log in from wherever they are. Moreover, the company saves on travel costs for the participants. It’s clear how replacing physical meeting rooms with virtual meetings addresses the key levers of business growth – scale, speed, and cost.
Virtual meeting technology as the new sales channel
The primary function of any business is to sell. That’s where you get the money from, that’s what builds the top line. Both B2B and B2C sales have traditionally involved meeting customers. In fact, a salesperson’s lives “on the field”. And the globetrotting executive has been the quintessential image of corporate success. While customer interaction remains the key to growing your business and building relationships, the traditional way harbours several inefficiencies.
Corporates are increasingly leveraging virtual meetings with customers to grow in a more meaningful manner. The scale is again a key variable here. There is a limited number of field visits that a salesperson can make in a day. If customer interaction is conducted over a virtual meeting platform, this number can be significantly increased, enabling a reach that is far more superior. It also goes without saying that the organization can cut down on sales-related costs to a great extent.
Geographical expansion is yet another perspective of looking at the scale. Virtual interaction enables one to reach out to potential clients who might be located in far-flung locations. Imagine the kind of costs that can be saved. More importantly, it’s not difficult to see how rapidly relationships can be built and deals can be cracked. New-age sales often involve a collaborative discussion between the sales team, customers, vendors, and other partners. And in the traditional way, one can imagine how difficult it can be to get all these stakeholders together at the same time. Scale, speed, and cost – virtual meetings address all these variables with one solution.
Scaling up associated business functions
Business growth, as explained earlier, is heavily dependant on a scale. This is valid not only for the top line but also for supporting functions. Because every activity that a corporation engages in has the objective of making the organization grow. Take recruitment for example. Reaching out to talent is not an easy job. Physically conducting interview delays the process further. Moreover, high-value potential recruits are often lost because of their unwillingness to take out time and travel for interviews. Virtual meeting platforms provide a much more rapid alternative, enabling recruiters to
reach out to the best talent irrespective of where they are based.
With the gig economy poised to disrupt the HR world in the years to come, virtual meetings will prove to be a certain boon. For business growth, corporates will certainly have to tap into the resource pool of skilled gig workers. A lot of gig workers will typically prefer telecommuting. It is obvious that the best investments in virtual meeting platforms will go a long way in making this process smoother for both employer and employee.
Conferences and training workshops are often looked at with a cost perspective. They are, however, essential to business growth. Dissemination of company updates and sharing of information, rewards, and recognition, and investments in upskilling and learning indirectly shape a corporate’s growth curve. Virtual meetings offer scale at an unprecedented level as far as reach is concerned when it comes to these activities. Not to mention the costs that can be saved thereby.
Playing the virtual card right
With a new way of working comes new challenges. It is evident that the efficiency of virtual meetings will play a major role in defining how well a business grows. Precautionary measures, virtual work protocols, and technology will ensure that corporates can leverage virtual meetings in the best possible manner for growth.
For instance, the nature of the selling process itself will have to adapt to this new virtual channel. How do you instil the same level of confidence in a customer? How do you awe a potential client with your product’s features? AR and VR are increasingly being integrated with virtual meeting platforms to take customer experience to the next level.
How do we ensure productivity isn’t compromised while working remotely? What additional features can be integrated to emulate traditional business processes? How do we ensure sufficient network bandwidth to support a large number of participants? Moreover, video-conferencing software is a hotbed for cybercrime. And how do we keep those super-confidential board meetings private? It’s an evolving game for sure. But with the promised advantages of scale, speed, and cost, the future of work will definitely see virtual meetings as an integral component to achieve sustained business growth.