Web conferencing, ICT and paper savings?

Earlier this week, I wrote about web conferencing and its potential contribution to reducing carbon footprints by eliminating some travel. In a comment, Cece Salomon-Lee of ON24 noted that such online sessions also reduce the need to print out copies of presentations, etc (assuming, of course, that participants don’t later download the presentations and print them out locally).

Paper savings are something that I have written about at some length over the past few years – it was (and to some extent still is) one of the major benefits claimed by vendors for construction collaboration technologies. But only recently have I begun to think about my own use of paper at meetings.

For example, I recently represented the collaboration vendors group, the NCCTP, at two meetings of the Council of Constructing Excellence (Sanjeev Shah, MD of Business Collaborator will be taking over in 2008). Reviewing the papers sent with the agenda, I realised that I would have to print out dozens of sheets if I wanted to refer to hard copies, most of which would be discarded after the meeting. I quickly decided instead to review the documents on-screen and to then take my laptop to the meeting, using mark-up to make notes. This works fine for me, but does result in one or two quizzical looks from other delegates.

I think this is because opening a laptop in a meeting can make it appear that one may not be paying attention to the discussions. Of course, if the laptop is linked to the web or a network, there would be a danger that one could be diverted by incoming emails or messages, but with a bit of self-discipline and by only opening the applications needed to view meeting documents, it is easy to focus. Nonetheless, it does help put other people’s minds at rest if you explain that you are simply opening the agenda and other papers on-screen; in time, perhaps this behaviour will become more standard practice.

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