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Is there actually any reason these days to travel for business? Well yes, there is actually.

The digital revolution may be making the world a smaller place by connecting people in real-time across multiple time-zones, but all the emails, conference calls and virtual meetings in the world can’t ever live up to a bona fide face-to-face meeting.

However, the ability to meet and network online does negate the need to travel quite so much. There may be no substitute for hopping on a plane over to Silicon Valley to clinch that next big investment, but there’s now plenty of alternatives to help you circumvent that 24-hour round-trip to discuss the nuances of that new business strategy. In short, you now have more convenient options.

But here’s the question – how exactly do you make the most of your tools? And can you really replicate a boardroom with little more than a networked computer?

If you regularly meet with clients, shareholders or stakeholders…particularly in groups, there’s no escaping the inevitable. You’ll likely want your ‘conference call’ invite preceded with ‘video’.

With that in mind, here’s The Next Web’s six reasons why video makes for a better online meeting…

Meeting 520x233 Seeing is believing: 6 reasons why video makes for a better online meeting

1. Visual cues

If there’s more than a few people taking part in an online meeting, it can be difficult to follow or monitor who’s talking and when. I know from my own experience that people can unintentionally talk over each other, or start speaking at the same time – with remote meetings the lack of visual cues such as body language detract from the meeting somewhat.

However, using video does help bridge this gap somewhat, and you can always see who’s talking and whether they have finished speaking or have simply paused to reflect before continuing.

Hand gestures, posture, a smile – these all help convey meaning when we communicate, and video meetings can get these across in a way that audio or text simply can’t.

2. Keep things professional…

Whether you’re a permanently home-based employee, or part of a typically ‘casual’ company, video meetings trump other types of online meetings because they encourage people to dress for the occasion.

Now, that may mean a shirt and tie disguising a person’s shorts-and-flip-flopped lower-half, but the point is if there’s an important deal going down everyone is reminded that they have to act – and look – professional. That little edge can make all the difference.

3. Seeing is believing…

Video meetings can mimic a boardroom setting much better than other forms of online gatherings.

If you have new products to show, for example, you can launch into an impromptu demonstration of something you didn’t think would be relevant to the meeting initially – a new product your company is developing, for example. You can create a much greater impact by showing people things rather than simply explaining.

4. Putting faces to names…

Whether you’re trying to foster a greater sense of camaraderie across a company, or trying to get on good terms with a potential new client – video creates a much more intimate atmosphere.

Avatars, names, voices…they are all important, but seeing someone speak can make the world of difference when trying to build relationships. It might not be quite as effective as hopping on a plane to San Francisco and shaking hands, but it’s certainly the next best thing. It’s a darn sight cheaper too…

5. Pay attention

Okay, everyone has probably been guilty of this at some point. With audio or text-only online meetings, there is a danger that some folk will get distracted and start checking other things online, they may even stare out the window or disappear to brew themselves a coffee.

With video, you have to be present and you have to at least look interested. Even if it’s not your turn to talk, you should have the courtesy of listening to everyone on the call, and video helps ensure this happens.

6. It makes homeworking feasible

Video-conferencing has enabled a more flexible working set-up in business. In fast-moving workplaces, a company doesn’t always know what lies around the corner, so a member of staff who is ‘on holiday’ could perhaps persuade the powers that be to let them dial in to a video-conference from home rather than being dragged all the way in on their day off.

Moreover, those that need to work at home unexpectedly due to unforeseen circumstances can use the lure of video meetings to help sway their bosses, and bosses can justify being a little more lenient when laying down the home-working law.