These days, budget stringency and cost-cutting measures are front and centre for all organisations. Be it private industry or government enterprise, the issue of budget context is a primary conversational point. With the passing of time budgetary constraints become more and more stringent. Cost cutting and reprioritising expenditure is the order of the day.

In that context that I am somewhat bemused by an area in which logical and legitimate curtailment could be made, without reducing the effectiveness or efficiency of operations. In fact, the reverse may apply.

Meeting on-line

It is paradoxical that in an era of cost cutting and pruning, one domain which seems to be forever expanded and never curtailed, relates to travel and accommodation costs associated with meetings, conferences and gatherings. Without being too cynical, it seems to me that people within both government and private sectors take every opportunity possible to travel for the purpose of meetings and conference opportunities. Some meetings attended, last for very short periods of time but that doesn’t reduce travel costs. Anecdotal evidence about attendance at
intra-territory, interstate and overseas meetings is frequent. Whenever you ring wanting to talk to people at middle and upper level management within organisations, it seems that they are away from the Territory attending conferences or going to meetings.

Changes I would make

In my opinion there is absolutely no need for these constant gatherings. They are disruptive, detract from work function and add hugely to enterprise costs. One of the first changes I would make as a departmental head or person in charge of an employing organisation, would be to institute a program of meeting online through whichever of the technologies is most appropriate. It could be by teleconference, video-conferencing, Skype or some other cyberspace methodology. Meetings would be instantaneous. Within the framework of reasonableness, people could connect worldwide and engage in conversation of the subject under discussion. While socialisation and getting together are important, the issue of time utilisation and cost saving makes this method one that needs further exploration.

I became involved with Online Conferencing in the late 1990s. During the following years I attended many significant conferences that had world-wide connection. They were extremely well organised, followed carefully constructed timetables and operated on a 24/7 basis. Online discussion and later video linking helped make these connections relevant, focussed and timely. Importantly, as a school principal, I remained on duty at my workplace. At the same time I had the opportunity to extend my professional horizons by contributing online to conferences and professional gatherings.

Several years ago the Association of Northern Territory School Educational Leaders (ANTSEL) organised its Biennial Conference through online method. Conference contributors involved through video linkage, the sharing of papers, discussion threads on topics. This conference was one of the cheapest ever in terms of dollar cost and one of the most significant in terms of its organisational structure.

Setting Priorities

Gatherings of people are important. However they incur significant expenditure and involve regular absence from work. In the interests of better effectiveness and efficiency and better utilisation of budgets I strongly suggest that online alternatives of meeting and gathering through cyberspace links should be explored.

I suspect that airline companies, convention organisers and accommodation providers may not be particularly impressed by this alternative method of gathering. However, in the interests of budget setting and establishing careful expenditure priorities, I would encourage an examination of this alternative conferencing and meeting method.

Henry Gray


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