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Modern communication techniques have enhanced the way USITT volunteers exchange information.

USITT Building Technology Bridges

Carl Lefko

A little over 18 years ago, I became the first faculty member in my college and building to have Internet access. Few faculty outside of the computer science department knew about the emerging Internet as a communication tool. My justification was to communicate with colleagues throughout the Southeast region as a member of the Nashville Conference Committee.

The flow of information and coordination of logistical elements became ongoing, often daily using e-mail to transmit important data. In today’s world, I can often see well over a hundred e-mails in a single day. One often feels like a slave to this technology.

The emerging technologies of Skype, Facebook, and Twitter are connecting people all over the world in ways only the writers of Star Trek and Dick Tracy could have imagined. As we work to increase communication within the Institute, it is important examine ways that the Institute incorporates technology to achieve better communication and possibly save money at the same time.

Historically, we have held Board Meetings, Commission and Section retreats, and Conference Committee meetings which required participants to travel thousands of miles to attend. This usually meant a day of travel to reach the meeting and another day to return. Boards, corporate executives, architects, and design teams have discovered the ability to save thousands of dollars in airfare and hotel expense, not to mention the expenditure of time lost in travel, by using web conferencing as a forum to communicate ideas and conduct business.

For over a year our Executive Committee has held bimonthly conference calls in an effort to conduct business in a condensed timeframe thus freeing up valuable hours of Internet and hundreds of e-mails. On July 20 the Executive Committee conducted a trial web conference in preparation for its first official meeting via web conferencing on August 2.

We have engaged the services of Syntela Conferencing, a company based in Syracuse. The system requires no software and can be accessed anywhere in the world with a phone line and a web connection. Features include the ability to share a Powerpoint presentation, an Excel spreadsheet, and any document that can be opened on a computer desktop. Later this fall, a video feature will be added allowing users with a web camera to share live video pictures of participants on their desktops.

As our reorganization plans shift from two to four Board of Directors meetings each year, we must look at alternate methods for bringing large groups together to conduct business. Without the use of electronic web conferencing, this would be cost prohibitive in today’s economy. Through web conferencing we are able to bring people together more often with less expense.

Last year alone USITT spent over $50,000 to transport people to meetings conducting business. I sincerely hope we can find ways to incorporate web conference to allow groups to meet more often, thus increasing the level of communication at a lower cost. Members of USITT are, generally speaking, technologically savvy and should be able to take advantage on the advances available today. Yes, technology has come a long way in 20 years, and as a technology driven community we should be able to capitalize on the new tools available in today’s high tech world.

Just as we introduced streaming video to the conference for the first time at the 2009 Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio I look forward to facilitating communication across the Institute in a more efficient and green technology.

I challenge each of you to join me in following a more green path as we move toward celebrating our 50th anniversary in Kansas City, Missouri in March 2010.

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