I set a meeting in Parnell for 4 pm last month and ended up being 45 minutes late… not a good look.
Parnell is 6 km away from where I live and it typically takes me 30 minutes in traffic to get there by car, including finding a park and walking the difference. This particular day, however, was an especially bad day for traffic and, having left at 3:25 pm, assuming I would be early, I arrived 80 minutes later…
It got me thinking, and it led to an experiment.
I wanted to understand the real cost associated with conducting in person meetings and compare this to the equivalent ‘virtual meetings’ I conduct with people out of town. I created an experiment to help determine what efficiencies in time and cost I could produce by conducting only remote meetings for those I would normally do face to face.
This is what I found out.
My hypothesis was that I would save on average 60 minutes of time and $20 in ‘operating costs’, which includes parking and sundry fees, without a sacrifice to quality of the service that I could provide, per meeting, by conducting all my meetings via video call instead of in person.
I set up three one-hour in person meetings on the same day (day one), which were held in local cafes around Auckland. These three meetings were within a 5 km radius of Auckland’s CBD. One was in Mt Eden, one was in Parnell, and one was in Wynyard Quarter.
I set the meetings with consideration for travel time and set the meetings at times and locations that suited the other person in a first-in-first served manner. Once the meetings were set, I didn’t attempt to reorganise or re-schedule the meetings to optimise for efficiency.
The total time allocated in my calendar for ‘travel time’ was 30 minutes each side of the meeting, which totalled to 3 hours of time.
I recorded the time I spent in the car, associated costs necessary to conduct the meetings, and the quality of the interactions.
In the second week, I set up three one-hour virtual meetings, which were conducted from my home office via video call. The people I meet with were different to the first three but were all based in Auckland and would’ve been people I would normally meet face to face.
I set these meetings upon a first-in-first-served basis and didn’t attempt to re-organise or re-schedule, but I was able to offer times that fit my calendar. No travel time was booked into my calendar.
All meetings across both day one and day two were completed, and all meeting ran for their allotted time, with a few exceptions noted in the results section.
On day one I spent a total of 124 minutes in the car traveling in between meetings and commuting to and from home and I travelled a total of 32 km around Auckland City. In total I spent the three hours in ‘travel time’ when including travel to and from my car and waiting in the cafes etc.
I paid a total of $32 in parking, an estimated $10 in gas (based petrol gauge movement) and spent $52 on six coffees and two lunches over the three meetings. For these meetings, I shouted the coffee and food as I had set them. This may not always be the case in all face to face meetings.
Points of interest:
1) I had to go home in between one of the meetings due to the time gap between the scheduled meeting. This time between meetings was a little disrupted from a work point of view but not included as a 'cost' of time.
2) One person was 10 minutes late to the first meeting as they were searching for parking, but this meeting finished on time. Therefore, we had 50 mins of discussion but the total time 'meeting' time was still an hour.
As such, the total cost of conducting these three one-hour meetings on day one was an extra three hours of my time, which I have valued but don’t need to share, and $94 in other costs.
The total cost of running the three meetings on day two via video call were negligible.
The in-person interactions were great, but the meeting conducted between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm was slightly hindered by the noise and distraction of the lunch rush in café we were in. It was a little limiting for genuine professional discussions but it might not have been something I would have picked up on if I wasn’t actively comparing this interaction to a video meeting.
On day two of experimenting I had three meetings in three hours conducted over the day.
There were approximately 10 minutes of total wasted time over the three calls. This was made up of an attendee jumping on the call ‘late’ due to a meeting overrun on their end and another trying to get an internet connection sorted. Neither interfered with the overall quality of the meetings.
The all three meetings were great. The interactions were professional and personable, as I was sitting face to face within two quiet and private environments. They all ended on time and I was able to quickly focus on the next task for the day at their conclusion.
EMGN was run almost entirely through skype and email, and we had seriously good partner and network relationships with people and companies all over the world. It’s why I initially set out to conduct all my service remotely. This approach has opened me up to provide a global service from day one and I now work with more people out of Auckland (and New Zealand) than in it.
I love meeting people face to face. I agree with the notion that there is value in sitting down across the table from someone and simply having a conversation. Yet, now that I understand the practical cost of conducting meetings in person, it seems quite limiting. The value of a face to face meeting certainly doesn’t equate to three hours of my time, especially when the value of communication may even be better over a high-quality video call.
The technology and internet connections today are now so good that live streaming HD video and audio is standard, and it’s just like being there in person. So much so that I personally believe the one on one conversation in a quiet and private environment is far more productive than that of an inner-city café.
In conclusion, I proved my hypothesis. I spent an extra hour of time and just over $30 per in-person meeting. In total, I saved three hours of my day by not commuting to the meetings I would have otherwise conducted face to face. This is a lot of time to save for someone that effectively sells their time for a living.
Bottom line, I am comfortable with why I now insist on video call, especially for someone I have never met. I am happy to chat to anyone for an hour to get to know them, their business, and understand how I can help. I can budget this time as part of running my business and it fits my mission of helping founder to succeed. It gets a little harder to justify if I those meeting come with the additional time cost associated with traveling around a city like Auckland.
From now on I’ll continue to have my coffee virtual, thanks!
About the author - Aidan Kenealy - Founder - Hole In One Ventures