Chicago Business Travel Association and Teleporting?

March 17, 2010 at 9:30 am 4 comments

by Tony

Jeff Goldblum isn’t the best looking dude, but when he’s The Fly that’s downright creepy.  So I was pretty freaked out when the Chicago Business Travel Association (CBTA) asked me to moderate a panel that, among other topics, was covering “teleportation.” It was always cool when they did that beaming thing on Star Trek, but hey, things can go wrong when you don’t have The Priceline Negotiator.

Turns out, my fears were unfounded. I must have a bad cell connection driving through the Holland Tunnel when I took the call from the CBTA. They were actually telling me that one of the topics was “telepresence,” something that I could really sink my teeth into.

The panel was a blast in part because we used technology in a new way, which made sense given the topic we were discussing.   It felt like I was on the Starship Enterprise as we beamed in Jim Davidson (CEO of Farelogix) from Berlin, Germany .   Jim’s head was shown on a movie theater sized screen, and while the crowd got quite a chuckle when I suggested he had a face made for radio, Jim’s telepresence via Skype was extremely successful and he added a lot to the panel.

CBTA Panel - Chicago, IL

Our CBTA panel, including the guy who "teleported" in via Skype.

It’s been around for a while, but this telepresence thing is becoming a big deal. I was recently on another panel in London at  The Business Travel Show , where the former travel manager from Capgemini and another from BP shared how they successfully implemented telepresence at their companies. The New York Times recently devoted an entire story to the topic. Some corporations are now claiming to see a similar ROI whether they videoconference or travel for the face-to-face meeting. According to the story, even hotels companies are trying to make a buck off this trend by building telepresence suites in their hotels!

So, here‘s my question to all of you in the audience. When do you ask your travelers to teleport and when do you make them hop on the plane for the in-person meeting? Is there a clear divide?  So far, most of what I have seen says they draw the line at internal meetings, but how far do you think this can go?

Frankly, I’m trying to adopt this technology in my personal life.  If only I could get Fat Frank to teleport into next Friday’s poker game. He’s my main man, but the guy eats like he’s going to the chair, and when he forgets his DiGel let’s just say you don’t want to be downwind.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Minton  |  March 17, 2010 at 10:01 am

    We are seeing many customers use telepresence to support travel by making the trip more valuable. In our case we hold online meetings to discuss and gain agreement on secondary issues and then travel to address primary issues. We may not travel a whole lot less but we do travel smarter and that is good for lowering the T&E component of the cost of goods sold.

  • 2. Isaac Bowman  |  March 18, 2010 at 9:44 am

    I tried to telepresence into your story but the TSA is forcing me through their body scanners. They swear the radiation hasn’t effected me… much. How do I look?


  • 3. Carol Ayala  |  March 18, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I think the teleport concept has a place in business because it creates efficiencies. That said nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting when relationship management is crucial to closing a deal.

  • 4. Rana Walker  |  April 19, 2010 at 4:34 am

    I believe that telepresence technology will in the end, only increase travel. Bringing efficiencies to business is always a good thing and this technology may very well do that. Further, I believe there is a section of businesses that are too small or don’t require much travel today, but may expand their business through such virtual meetings. This, in my estimation, will in turn lend itself to more business travel as their business needs and opportunities expand.


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