Travel is an important aspect of global business. It enables good cooperation, building trust between team members located in various countries and, last not least, it feeds the ego. Frequent travel, even today, equals prestige, as do a high budget and a lot of resources.
Time to think differently? Definitely! There are a multitude of reasons for managing meetings more innovatively. Reducing the carbon footprint is only one.
A recent article in Nature (Vol. 577, 2 January 2020) showcases the conference approach of the European Biological Rhythms Society (ERBS). Participants viewed presentations across 28 time zones from more than 70 virtual hubs, including Tel Aviv (Israel), Zurich (Switzerland), Boston (USA), Tokyo (Japan) and Porto Alegre (Brazil). Participants interacted through different channels such as two-way video systems or broadcasts combined with Twitter. The hubs were also encouraged to organize local social events.
The outcome: a scientific discussion that flowed; participants saved time and energy; people who cannot afford to travel, for instance students, and parents, who might find it difficult to arrange travel, could attend. This made the conference more inclusive – 10% more participants. Global business should not lag behind and might want to learn from academia.