They’ve been held on mountain tops. They’ve been held at sea. They’ve been held in the cradle of the renaissance. And they’ve been held in the great hall of the Forbidden City.
Professional development conferences offer businesses the chance to send their best and brightest off to hear from the leaders in their field and learn about the latest trends affecting their industry. However, the price of admission, and the cost of accommodation and travel, can be steep.
Video conferencing, and its ability to gather together like minds through their desktops, offers a cheaper, more dynamic method of improving the skills of any staff. Soon, the best conference you ever attend may not involve leaving the office at all.
Learn from the Biggest
Before turning his attention to public service, Donald Trump earned himself a tidy $1.5 million per speech at a series of real estate expos in the mid-2000s. The company behind the expos, Learning Annex, turned a profit off Trump’s appearances, reaping the benefits from attendees willing to pay up to $500 to hear from the real estate mogul.
Once you factor in the money spent on travelling to the show, and staying at least one night out of town, that’s a lot of capital invested in hearing the latest property trends. For many business operators it’s just too much.
However, if The Donald had instead stood before a quality video conferencing system his presentation could have been beamed directly into real estate offices the country over. And the two-way nature of the video call would’ve meant he could still answer questions from the audience, and, most importantly, hear them applaud.
But that’s just one speech. A professional development conference carries on over days, and lets participants gather in dedicated workshops to share information and learn new techniques.
Video conferencing can cater for that too.
One Screen, Many Faces
The compression power of today’s video conferencing software means video calls need no longer be a solitary point-to-point affair. Echo reduction has enabled the leading providers to host hundreds of video streams simultaneously without every scratch of the pen and muffled cough booming out around the world.
The subscription service offered by Adobe Connect can handle 100 simultaneous participants, Fuze 125, and Skype for Business 250 people. If you invest in video conferencing hardware capable of letting half a dozen people, or even an entire roomful share a single screen, the possible numbers of remote audience attendees skyrockets into the thousands.
And there’s plenty of capacity to break that gathering down into smaller groups for free flowing workshops and more informal chats. Breakout room features are common among video conferencing providers, and once inside participants can share all manner of documents and files, and even collaborate on virtual whiteboards.
So the host of the next great real estate conference could let their speakers address a subscription-only video feed of thousands without the experts ever leaving their homes, or the audience themselves ever leaving their office.
The event could be scheduled around a series of opt-in lectures and workshops that let attendees pick and choose between offerings that suit their interests and availability. Without the need to travel, participants could dip in and out of the event within the flow of their daily work routine, rather than quickly checking email while lingering in the hotel lobby.
Video Conference Guest Stars
As the holographic technology that allowed Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme to beam his virtual self halfway around the world to a company conference reduces in complexity and cost, it may soon become possible for the majority of businesses to afford a system of their own that can at least receive a live holographic projection.
With accessible tech, any popular current avant-garde voice in your industry could become an inspirational lecturer making a simultaneous, in-office presentation to thousands of people across hundreds of offices.
Obviously, should the lure of a glittering ballroom and clinking champagne flutes prove irresistible, professional speakers could open up a whole new revenue stream by appearing as the keynote speaker at a dozen different company functions at once.
And just as video conferencing has torn down the barrier of distance, so too will it soon remove the language barrier. Skype’s real-time translation service for video conferencing is still in its infancy, but can already provide a running text translation of conversation conducted in Spanish and English. Once other languages are added there’ll be no need for anyone to miss out on a key speech delivered anywhere–North and South American employees of Toyota could listen to a speech by CEO Akio Toyoda in Japan with no need for a translator or subtitles.
Build Your Own Conference
However, should the appearance fees of star speakers still leave even the virtual conference out of reach for smaller businesses, they could simply form an event of their own, made convenient and inexpensive by video conferencing tech.
Building on local networks of professionals and minor celebrities, and branching out to peers who are attracting attention elsewhere, any business could play host to a weekend of exchanging ideas, troubles, and tips among workers at the coalface of their industry.
And there’s no limit to how influential such a conference may one day become.
The Summit Series began in 2008 as a gathering for just 19 people. In less than 10 years it has become one of the world’s most exclusive conferences, attracting guest speakers of the ilk of Bill Clinton and Richard Branson while costing attendees around $2,500.
This year the summit will be held on an ocean liner.
Image source: Flickr CC user European People’s Party