The CEOs of the largest US corporations by total revenue, the Fortune 500, were asked a series of questions about what they thought the future would be beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
The most unanimous decision was that CEOs will spend less time flying. An impressive 91% of CEOs agreed that “business travel will become less frequent, replaced by video conferencing”.
Video conferencing seriously reduces travel time and associated costs (taxis to and from airport, hotel accomodation, food and drink) for CEOs. If video conferencing is reliable it also protects an organisation from unforeseen events and video conferencing adds a great deal of value by improving an organisation’s communication capabilities.
Air travel ground to a halt as country after country closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. In April 2020 travel bookings in the US fell 98% from last year’s levels and the average domestic flight had 10 passengers on board. Earlier this month Warren Buffett, renowned for his messages of long-term optimism about US stocks during previous financial downturns, said that Berkshire Hathaway was selling all of its substantial holdings in the four major US airlines American, Delta, United, and Southwest. Borders are reopening but there remains a lot of blocked routes.
With CEOs, management and employees largely confined to their homes, apps that allow them to talk and see each other became central to day-to-day lives. The video conferencing app Zoom, founded by Eric Yuan, was used by 10 million people in December last year. In March Yuan stated Zoom was seeing 200 million daily meeting participants. The following month, April, the participant figure had risen to 300 million. Microsoft released a free version of Teams, which allows continuous workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and application integration. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it had 200 million meeting participants in a single day last month and that Teams usage has increased to more than 75 million daily active users. Microsoft has 258 million paid users of Office 365, which includes access to Microsoft Teams.
The global video conferencing market reached US$3.02 billion in 2018, according to Fortune Business Insights. It is projected to double by 2026 with an estimated projection of US$6.37 billion.
With video conferencing cleary getting more than a foothold in businesses, there is still room for improvement. The next step is “room apps” where users can easily run video conferences through a room app, a large, high quality screen such as micro LED displays, and eliminate the stress and time it takes to set up a meeting room system.
In addition, work is underway for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to join your meeting room as a facilitator. Technology leaders are creating machine learning programs that can transcribe audio, count attendees and provide insights into attendee engagement, helping you focus on the most impactful pieces of the meeting. AI will also cut out a lot of the noise in meetings. Machine learning algorithms will be able to discern which speaker should be active, and ensure the speaker’s voice is fully heard by finding and minimising background disruptions. This means that car horns or distant chatter will no longer disrupt your meetings. AI will become a fundamental piece of the meeting room experience.
There will be a new normal.