Video conferencing technology headed into boardroom meetings

Monday, April 25 2011

Video conferencing may have been around for a while, but it has only recently been used in board meetings in major corporations in the U.S. Because the technology is becoming more sophisticated than ever, telepresence systems are becoming an important tool for many companies that would like to reduce some travel expenses, as well as save international members the hassles of traveling just for a meeting.

American Express recently held a board meeting, and according to The Wall Street Journal, 10 of the 13 members attended virtually. It was the second time that the directors held a meeting using video conferencing, with the technology giving those who may not be able to attend the opportunity to take part in the meeting. The high-definition system mimics a real-life face-to-face interaction, "allowing attendees to make eye contact and observe body language," the news outlet explains.

Not only is video conferencing technology a great solution for board members to participate in meetings, whether they are in another state or a country across the globe, the system is also revolutionizing how corporations pick their directors, allowing them the opportunity to select individuals who may not be living in the country. According to a study by Spencer Stuart, about 9 percent of directors of U.S. corporations are non-Americans, an increase of 3 percent from 2005. This trend towards globalization will only increase as the need for video conferencing technology evolves.

"New technologies such as telepresence increase U.S. board's interest in picking members based abroad as they try to diversify their geographic makeup," Dennis Carey, vice chairman at Korn/Ferry International, said to the news source.

Besides American Express, other major hitters like Walmart, McAfee and PepsiCo are also streamlining their meetings with the virtual participation of some of their board members.

Video conferencing technology became integral to McAfee - a computer security system company - when its board members had to meet 25 times in three months to discuss Intel's acquisition of the company, which became finalized in March, according to the news source. Through the system, directors from the East Coast were able to go back and forth with Intel's proposal with everyone else in the Palo Alto, California, headquarters without having to constantly be traveling.