The History of Virtual Meetings

The Picturephone from AT&T was launched as a commercial video conferencing solution at the World’s Fair in New York in 1968, allowing users to communicate via video with someone on the other end for 10-minute intervals. However, its high cost, size, and complexity limited its adoption. It wasn’t until the 1980s that video conferencing began to gain traction with the introduction of systems from Compression Labs and PictureTel. Prices dropped significantly, making them more accessible to larger corporations.

IBM dropped the price of their systems to $20,000, and CU-See Me from Macintosh made video collaboration more feasible for consumers and businesses. Polycom played a crucial role in the evolution of video conferencing in the late 1990s and early 2000s with its ViewStation and Via Video solutions.

While enterprise adoption continued to grow, video conferencing use cases also expanded outside of businesses. Courts, law firms, and the military started using video conferencing, as did higher education distance learning and telehealth in healthcare. Large global enterprises also began to embrace video conferencing to reduce travel, improve collaboration, and increase product time to market. The widespread availability of Wi-Fi and HD video camera technology in smart devices made video collaboration accessible to workers across organisations.

The Impact of the Pandemic

The pandemic created a whole new world of interaction where everything was carried out online. As the threat of COVID has receded we are left with the benefits of this experience to weigh up against the face-to-face approach of a pre-pandemic world. When it comes to how we interact with each other, is it time to go back to the face-to-face approach?


  • Convenience – Virtual meetings allow participants to attend from anywhere with an internet connection, eliminating the need for travel and saving time.
  • Flexibility – Participants can join meetings from their home, office, or any other location they choose, providing flexibility in their work schedule.
  • Cost savings – Virtual meetings eliminate the need for travel, accommodation, and other expenses associated with in-person meetings, making them a cost-effective option.
  • Accessibility – Virtual meetings can be more accessible to people with disabilities, as they can join from a location that is comfortable and convenient for them.


  • Technical difficulties – Technical issues such as poor internet connectivity, audio or video quality problems, and difficulties with screen sharing or other collaboration tools can make virtual meetings frustrating and ineffective.
  • Lack of personal connection – Virtual meetings can lack the personal connection and engagement that comes with in-person meetings, making it more difficult to build relationships and trust among participants.
  • Distractions – Participants in virtual meetings may be more prone to distractions, such as checking email, taking phone calls, or multitasking, which can lead to reduced engagement and productivity.
  • Fatigue – Virtual meetings can be tiring for participants, especially if they are back-to-back or if the meeting involves prolonged staring at a screen.
  • Reduced body language and nonverbal cues – Virtual meetings can make it more difficult to read body language and nonverbal cues, which can hinder effective communication and collaboration.

George Bernard Shaw said, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

We couldn’t agree more. Time and time again, video conferencing solutions allow for teams to have 8 meetings a day, but these meetings will rarely all be productive.

So, is a hybrid approach the way forward?

The pandemic opened up the potential for using technology to improve efficiency and make better use of time. However, it’s also important not to forget that humans thrive – and are driven by – connection. A hybrid approach to meetings would mean a combined strategy that provides for face-to-face contact in situations that would be best served by connection and virtual meetings where the benefits of efficiency and accessibility can be enjoyed. Combining the two could be an effective way forward for many.

Virtual Presence Coaching with Clearwater Advisers

Clearwater Advisers are strategic communication coaches, we specialise in showing leaders and their teams how to increase trust and buy-in when they communicate. Part of that process includes coaching in virtual presence, which has become increasingly necessary in recent times.

Want learn more about our virtual presence coaching? Get in touch with us via “Contact Us” page.