Well, the cycle has come around again. Over the years people have developed a strong appetite for using virtual meetings at various points in time. During oil crises, after 9/11 and more recently because of the economy and flu viruses. My phone calls and emails are full of questions about what technologies to use and how to design interactions in virtual environments.
Here's the thing. Virtual meetings are fantastic. I know that because I've been designing them for about 20 years using the full range of technologies from teleconferencing to Twitter. However, it's easy to be seduced into thinking that virtual meetings are going to save you a pile of money or that they're a viable alternative for replacing all or most of your face-to-face meetings.
Virtual meetings require just as much careful design as face-to-face meetings... and that costs money. You need bandwidth... and that costs money. You need marketing... and that costs money. Certainly there are ways to save money by using electronic alternatives, but don't fool yourself into thinking that just because Skype is free that you're going to slash your meeting budgets to zero.
During times like these, I always try to remind people that they need to think about the effectiveness side of the equation. Will the meeting medium you choose deliver the value you're looking for? Will people be more or less engaged by the way in which you set up interaction? What is the real purpose for your meeting and how should you appropriately integrate technology?
Technology-driven approaches to communication have a long history of a very high failure rate. Instead, use a purpose-driven approach. If you focus on your purpose and design your interaction around it, you'll be much happier with your results.