Business Brains

Virtual preso technology gets plug of volcanic proportions

Posting in Sustainability

Business travel travails aside, I'll bet there was a big European spike in Internet and videoconferencing over the past week.

So you're a keynote speaker for a conference and a massive cloud of volanic ash grounds your plane. Do you cancel your appearance? If you're smart, you improvise by using virtual conferencing technology to redefine what is means to be "live." You probably also use the travel snafu as a life lesson in your consulting gigs.

That's what Montreal-based sustainability consultant Peter Winters did this week when he couldn't get from Montreal, Quebec, to Birmingham, England, this week for Sustainabilitylive! in Birmingham, England. Winters improvised on the fly (no pun intended), choosing presentation hosting service myBrainshark to upload his presentation about how to market low-carbon products.

The site allowed Winters to deliver his presentation asynchronously, recording the same remarks and narrative that he would have made in person as audio files associated with each slide. Brainshark also includes a guestbook, where those who listened can register their name (in fact, you have to register in some way to view it). That allows both Winters and the conference organizers to gauge "attendee" interest in the presentation, see how online polling questions did, and adjust content for the future.

Clearly, if it weren't for the volcano, Winters would have got on the plane. But this is just the latest incidence of Mother Nature perhaps asking us business traveler types to reconsider whether this is really the wisest thing for us to do for the planet. It's making me reconsider a pending commitment for August, which potentially conflicts with something my family would like to do. As much as I need to promote myself -- being "seen" is important when you freelance for a living -- I'm beginning to wonder if I couldn't forge some more meaningful connections virtually and then cement them in-person in the future.

Cue that old Clash song, "Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?"

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure