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BUSINESS TRAVEL DECISIONS – Caught on candid camera.

Thanks to a good night out, you feel worse for wear and you look it, too. Your eyes are some kind of road map and your face has had an argument with a razor. Then the phone rings. But it’s only after half-an-hour, when your most lucrative client asks whether you’re fit to renegotiate her contract, that you remember the phone’s video-conferencing facility is on.

Video-conferencing was launched amid much hype. It was hailed as being the service that would cut a swathe through companies’ travel bills. And because it enables face-to-face communication, went the argument, it would do away with most business travel (and save the environment).

However, video-conferencing hasn’t taken over the world, and hotel groups that have installed it in selected properties report minimal demand. Nevertheless, some companies and government offices use it to great effect.

With all the environmental benefits, it isn’t surprising that the Environment Agency has installed the technology in 52 offices. In so doing, it claims to have saved nearly #1m and 26,000 hours of travelling. Equipment is supplied by Motion Media and ranges from office phones with 5-inch screens to plasma screens and projectors in meeting rooms.

Mike Denbury, the agency’s head of video conferencing says the equipment is not limited to talk: the Environment Agency also uses it for working on documents with distant parties. Moreover, the technology allows the agency to hold meetings with hard-to-reach partners in Canada and the US. “The cost of getting people to those countries would have been prohibitive.

Video-conferencing allows us to have meetings we could not have had before,” Denbury says.

He also lists the advantages of seeing as well as hearing. “It is more personal, you get so much more out of each conversation,” he says. “Verbal communication is only 7% of the process and you can tell a lot from body language.”

Which is fine, just so long as, when you’re saying “Yes, of course,” and thinking “In your dreams,” on a video-conference call, your body language doesn’t betray you.

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