There’s an interesting debate going on about the value of online meetings and web conferencing compared to face-to-face in-person meetings. Airlines don’t want always want airport visitors to see the “Next Time Meet Online” GoToMeeting ads. And Hyatt is defending business travel.

This is a false choice. Of course, face-to-face meetings are great. The question is are there situations where the benefit of saving time and travel costs outweighs the value of meeting in person? Can you sell to a wider audience? Train people more easily? Attend more productive meetings? Employ (or retain) people in more locations? And, if so, how much time and travel costs do you save exactly? What’s the ROI on online meeting tools?

Consider this graph from our finance dept correlating increased use of GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar at Citrix and decreasing travel cost per employee.

In this example, the $150 savings is a roughly 3X return compared to the cost of a GoToMeeting license, but reduced travel isn’t the only benefit of online meetings. 
For instance, a greater benefit for us is simply including a GoToMeeting link in all on-site meetings. That way people can join from other offices, their home, wherever they happen to be, even if it’s just down to road. 

From marketing, to sales, to service, to training, HR, engineering -- what’s remarkable is how impactful online meeting tools are across the organization on everyday productivity. It takes time, but usage grows and they become habitual and indispensable. It is becoming a competitive disadvantage to not use them.

One caveat to that is that if you have a web conferencing solution but people don’t use it widely (because it’s not easy, not reliable or otherwise problematic) than you are missing out on the benefits. The key is usage.