The Real / Virtual Meeting Debate

Verizon recently estimated that:

“a face-to-face meeting is between five and 35 times more expensive than a virtual meeting”.

Graham responded that by commenting on limitations of virtual meetings:

“With all of these limitations I wonder whether the value of many virtual meetings is so low as to make them more expensive than face-to-face meetings.”

Graham also gave the example that:

“In one particular occasion we were working on a technical problem for over three weeks before a face-to-face meeting resolved the problem in under 2 hours.”

I agree face-to-face has a place.  I estimate that I could reduce around 60% of the travel I perform by using:

  • HD Video
  • Whiteboarding
  • Document interaction

The remaining 40% being initial first time meetings, customer meetings or staff sessions where nothing but face-to-face should be used.  I use one short haul return flight about  15 times per year – not counting my other flights and driving for meetings – and I’m not one of the heavier users.  It is about the same as a Manchester – Heathrow return.  The chart shows information from and estimates 1 flight, the 15 flights I take, after reducing flights and compares the fact that effectively my flights today are equivalent to an additional car.


When considering the cost of a meeting, the value of a meeting, we should also consider the impact of a meeting.  I wonder how long it will be before there is a cultural tipping point, when will it be frowned upon to travel to a meeting?  Longer term will this lead to a reduction in travel?  I hope so because I’d much rather be sat here at home typing this than in an airport or on a flight.


  1. Stu did you do a marginal costing for your estimate of the short hall flights, ie if the flight has spare seats the impact of you flying is the fuel related to your weight, if it’s full the cost of the personal you displace taking a car. Also you might ask if people stopped using the flight it might be uneconomic and all those people on the flight would start taking car’s – what would be the impact of that?


  2. Hi Steve, I agree and then you have overnight accomodation when people start driving and the impact of that (laundry etc.). I’m not saying there is a panacea but I’m looking forward to the day that meeting with high definition video and interactive tools results in less travel requirements.


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