Unified Communications

04:15 PM
Mitch Irsfeld
Mitch Irsfeld
Commentary
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Will Hurricanes Bolster Conferencing?

Now there's an odd question, but at least one conferencing vendor is using the deadly Katrina/Rita combo to promote its services and give back a bit to the relief effort.

Now there's an odd question, but at least one conferencing vendor is using the deadly Katrina/Rita combo to promote its services and give back a bit to the relief effort.

As fuel prices rose but didn't recede with the floodwaters, the cost of travel, even local travel, can make managers think twice about scheduling in-person meetings. So Web and video conferencing may soon gain more allure. Even those who've tried it and found it too unwieldy for most of their meetings may be ready to take another look when they review their most recent expense reports.

Realizing this potential, LiveOffice Corp. has made a special offer to its financial advisor customers, a three-month program where advisors can try LiveOffice's IMConferencing service for $150. Called the "Filler-Buster" program, the campaign is limited to the first 1,000 advisors who sign up. LiveOffice is also offering complimentary copies of its Collaboration 101 guide for financial advisors.Oh, and the company promises that all profits from the Filler-Buster program will be donated to the Hurricane Katrina and Rita disaster relief efforts.

The timing is probably right to flog this market a little harder. In addition to the higher cost of travel, Airlines continue to cut budgets, close down routes and file for bankruptcy. And winter is just around the corner and we all know how fun winter travel can be.

If there is an up-tick in interest for conferencing to replace some travel, the vendors had better put their best foot forward. Most reports of mothballed conferencing systems seem to stem not from a lack of functionality, but from poorly trained users who end up in embarrassing situations in front of important clients, partners and associates. The technology gets blamed (in front of other potential users) and eventually put aside. Business meetings are often too important to trust to an hour-long training session, and even when running properly, the technology can easily become the focus of the meeting until everyone on the conference is feeling comfortable using it.

For 20 years I've been a fan of the potential of conferencing technology. But it's a little like being a Chicago Cubs fan. There may be more reason than ever before to look at conferencing again, but vendors won't receive much slack. Saving money is no substitute for a professional reputation. I've seen Web conferencing work, and I've seen meetings cancelled and rescheduled for onsite. I've seen conference rooms lavishly rebuilt to accommodate expensive new conferencing technology. All I can say is the rooms sure looked nice.Now there's an odd question, but at least one conferencing vendor is using the deadly Katrina/Rita combo to promote its services and give back a bit to the relief effort.

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