Volume 44, Issue 5 - May 2009

GANA Perspectives

Internet Events
Glass Industry Embraces Online Education, Meetings
by Brian Pitman

As the cost of doing business in the glass and glazing industry seems to grow by the minute, companies are looking for ways to provide essential services to their employees and clients in a cost-effective manner. Trade associations such as the Glass Association of North America (GANA) are in the same boat, especially with regard to regular meetings of the association. The evolution of online technology has provided a solution for this need, and that solution is becoming more and more prevalent in the industry.

Ten years ago, a handful of software companies provided the ability to connect via a computer online and took control of it (this capability was even built into every copy of Microsoft Windows and has been for quite some time). The technology was clunky at best, and it didn’t provide a feasible way for multiple people to “meet” online adequately. Now fast forward a few years. Several companies offer online meeting capabilities, with the ability to stream voice and even video, share a whiteboard or collaborate on a document and switch controls from user to user or computer to computer. Furthermore, they offer it inexpensively (some services are even completely free).

Meeting in Cyberspace 
With new software and new technologies debuting at a rapid pace, many are looking to leverage this technology to make the best of a tough financial situation. During the period of a week, several “webinar” notices are posted on USGlass Magazine’s USGNN.com™ daily newsletter. Some, such as the monthly PGC International webinar and future GANA educational webinars, provide free education and information to anyone in the industry willing to participate. Others, such as the Glazing Industry Code Committee’s (GICC) Energy Code Updates, charge a fee and provide exclusive information, thoughts and ideas to those who attend. Both types of webinars have been successful.

The beauty of this online education, of course, is the inexpensiveness of its nature. Companies can send employees to events with the purpose of getting the needed educational content. But for a face-to-face meeting, there is typically a registration fee, plus travel costs, hotel costs if the event is distant, food and beverage necessities, etc. When compared to an online event that may or may not charge a fee to “attend” without the travel, hotel and food costs, the benefits weigh heavily in favor of an online event. Additionally, the savings also may make it possible for a company to have more employees participate, sort of “spreading the wealth.”

PGC International announced earlier this year that its spring meeting would occur as a two-day, web-based meeting, saving its members and the organization tens of thousands of dollars. The decision was embraced by its members, and quite a lot of work was completed during the event. Many other organizations also have adopted web-based meetings as replacements for location-based events, and GANA also is looking at the potential for cost savings to members and the organization.

The Flipside 
The downside to web-based meetings, of course, is that the face-to-face nature of location-based meetings is lost in translation. The opportunity to mix with others in the industry, to develop relationships with customers and to establish a personal rapport isn’t possible in the anonymous nature of the Internet. However, in light of the tremendous cost savings in a harsh economic climate, companies are learning to evolve how they address those aspects as well. Until we see true economic recovery, this will have to suffice.

I encourage you to hop on a free web-based meeting at least once in the next few months to get a feel for their possibilities. As we move through the rest of the year, you will find more and more chances to do so, from GANA and others.

Brian Pitman is GANA’s director of marketing and communications. Mr. Pitman’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

USG

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