This week some media outlets speculated that holograms will soon replace conference calls. It is not a new idea and the technology is not yet mainstream. That will please the companies who have not switched from audio to visual, let alone thought about virtual reality. When you can see a hologram, but it cannot see you, will you still sit in boredom playing on your phone?
Audio calls were brought in to save time and money. The idea was that busy people would cut travel expenditure and have more time to do important things. In practice this is no longer always true. Advances in mobile technology mean that it is possible for someone to work whilst travelling and the merits of face-to-face contact, especially with directly managed staff, are recognized in engagement policies.
The biggest problem with audio conferences is that they promote passive listening rather than active debate. When there’s no hard cost involved anyone can dial in on the off-chance that they might hear something relevant. They can even hit mute and chat about work, or personal matters, whilst someone drones on at the other end of the line.
What we’ve lost in the search for improved efficiencies, is the relevance of the meeting itself and our respect for the other attendees.