A couple of years ago, I was invited to an IBM press junket to Germany. Nothing wrong with that – press junkets are what journalists get to make up for being paid a salary roughly equivalent to that of a short, low-achieving supermarket shelf-stacker – with one arm. And I have nothing against Germany either (apart from the T-shirt/Speedo combinations they insist on wearing on the beach – which makes them look naked from the waste down).
The problem with this junket was that is was painfully and ironically pointless. IBM wanted to fly us to Germany and back in a day (no swanky night in a mini-bar equipped hotel) to see – a teleconferencing system.
This was in the days before the marketing drones had latched onto the environmental angle as way to flog just about anything going – including video conferencing -- so the idea of churning out a couple of tonnes of carbon to go and see a system designed to reduce the need to fly hadn’t occurred to anyone.
In this more green-enlightened times, imagine my surprise when this invite plopped into my in-box: Telepresence World 2008 London News Release http://www.telepresenceworld.net.
Yep, why not expel some carbon, and cash and spend a day or two at a conference in London’s Excel centre next year learning about technologies to help you reduce your environmental footprint, cut travel costs and improve productivity.
I couldn’t help a cheeky email to the PR, pointing out this irony (I know full well that no-one is going to spend money on a telepresence system worth tens of thousand of pounds without playing with a physical device but the question needed asking).
This was the reply
Thanks--I know it may seem ironic but we will have some speakers and attendees participating via telepresence, cutting down on travel and expense. In addition, in order to gain acceptance of this technology and promote adoption for future use, people need to see it at some point and we think that having many vendors demonstrate their products in one place and at one time is advantageous and efficient for the consumer. We are planning a US-based event in the fall so we are hoping that many attendees will come from localized areas for each event, cutting down on flying time and carbon footprint.
There you go - the answer makes sense I guess - but it still seems slightly daft. I hope they invite me to the US conference - US junkets are the best!