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August 25, 2008

Web Conferencing: Preventing My Annoyance, Er, I Mean Saving the Earth


I am in love. Mrs. Krause knows about it too. I am in love with web conferencing. Granted, our love is more utilitarian than, say, soulmate forever type stuff. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say I like web conferencing (since it does, after all, mean a meeting is happening), but I love it for what it keeps me from having to do.


Here is my hierarchy of meeting preferences:


  1. No meeting.
  2. Chat over e-mail.
  3. Phone meeting.
  4. Head boiled in acid after ripping away of flesh.
  5. Face-to-face meeting.


Now I realize some of the people who ask me to attend meetings with them may be taken aback to learn this. It’s nothing personal. I’d be glad to talk to you in a restaurant, on a street corner or even in a hot tub. (Actually that last one only applies to some of you.)


But those aren’t meetings. Meetings are different. Meetings waste time.


First, someone has to travel to the meeting location. Or maybe everyone has to travel to it. That depends where it is. Then, you have to shake hands. Don’t get me started on shaking hands. Then you have to update each other on “how you’ve been,” a question you only ask people you don’t see that often and don’t think to contact in between get-togethers, because you don’t actually care how they’ve been.


Then you have to give or receive an offer of coffee, water or whatever. Then you have to comment on some irrelevant aspect of the person’s appearance, wardrobe choice that day, disposition, etc.


By the time you start working your way through the agenda, the work day is over. By the time you get home, it’s 2035.


This is so self-evident to me, but for some reason, clients think it’s good to meet. I know that because they say things like, “It would be good to meet,” and the next thing you know I’m trudging off to God-knows-where instead of getting work done.


You try to steer them to a phoner or just talk over e-mail, but they’re convinced there’s just something about face-to-face. That’s where web conferencing comes in. But I can’t get them to do it just by appealing to the value of convenience, because then they think I’m just trying to avoid meeting with them, which of course I am.


So I came up with this one:


“Do you know that 600 billion tons of carbon are emitted into the atmosphere daily as the result of people driving and flying to business meetings?”


I made that up.


“I had no idea!” the client said. “That makes me think I should re-evaluate my personal practices. I want to do everything I can to minimize my carbon footprint.”




“This is one of the reasons web conferencing is growing in popularity,” I said. “People are becoming increasingly concerned about their impact on the Earth.”


The client was sold.


“You know, D.F., I’m really glad you told me about this. I’m going to bring it up to our CEO and see if we can get a corporate initiative started to use more web conferencing. As a corporate citizen, I think it’s our responsibility.”


“Oh yes, definitely,” I wholeheartedly agreed. “The planet will thank you for this. So we’re set for a web conference tomorrow at 2 instead of me coming to your place?”


Confirmed. I even brought my own coffee. One word of caution, though. It’s not like watching TV, where the person on the screen can’t see you back (although you’ll be glad to know they can’t smell anything you do). Just be mindful of your motions, and enjoy your triumph over the evil meeting.


Oh yeah. And save the Earth. I guess.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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