The ACTE Column: Spin over substance?

In our information-laden world, perhaps video links can bring clarity.

The UK general election is looming, the date of which may have been formally announced rather than unofficially leaked by the time this column goes to press. After the debacle of the expenses scandal, we can wonder if our ministers truly have the good of the general public at heart or whether they may be in office to milk the system for their own gains. We will doubtless see an increase in public mud-slinging as the parties jockey for position in the hope of wooing the electorate with vote-winning policies written in response to the mood of the general public, rather than what may actually be in the best interests of the general public.

It begs the question of whether the whole world now runs on spin alone or whether spin is a necessary part of drawing attention to substance. Perhaps it is simply a time issue. Technology enables, in fact it demands that we do more with less. Maybe we simply don't have time to dig deep for honest answers.

The 60-second television news report now seems to be the norm, from the unimpeachable BBC to Channel Five from whence it probably originated. Do we so crave a constant stream of information from every available source, or are we re-programming our brains to absorb only headlines and therefore re-defining the standards for information ingestion for the next generation? Admittedly the next generation does seem able to watch TV, listen to music on an iPod, text and instant message while simultaneously playing electronic games and surfing the net. The next generation can filter.

But does that mean there is a whole generation that is infinitely more clever than those before them? Or having been born into the technological age, perhaps they are hard wired to be able to operate differently, to absorb information and interact more efficiently.

ACTE's first multi-national video-linked education event was held at the end of January in collaboration with the Nordic business travel associations, TANDBERG and Video Conference Group, and was an experiment designed to benefit the industry as a whole.

The main event was held at the Sheraton Stockholm Hotel and additional groups joined via live video link from meeting locations in Copenhagen and Oslo. It was a true testament to the spirit of open collaboration, which enables our industry to progress. The Swedish, Danish and Norwegian Business Travel Associations partnered with ACTE on the education event and what was delivered was an experience that enabled delegates to see how and when they could deploy such technology to benefit their own companies and associations.

While video conferencing (VC) technology has been around for more than a decade, 50 per cent of delegates had only used VC connectivity for small groups from two locations and the other 50 per cent had never experienced VC at first hand before. It was the first time ACTE connected multiple large groups from different countries to share best-practice initiatives and learn in a live environment. It was a highly successful technological test as well as a relevant and useful learning experience. (Footage and outcomes available on ACTE's website).

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