Global Conferencing Data Reflect Business Trends

By Roy Maurer Aug 18, 2014

Can international conference call usage provide insights about cultural and regional business trends?

Global conferencing and collaboration provider InterCall wanted to know, so it analyzed more than 20 billion audio, video and Web conferencing minutes across 197 countries throughout 2013 to discover some interesting international work habits.

“There hasn’t been a bigger force changing business in the last 10 years than globalization. From Shanghai to Cape Town, companies must be able to connect with each other,” said Rob Bellmar, executive vice president of conferencing and collaboration at InterCall. “We were curious if conferencing usage would identify any trends or even reinforce notions about regional and cultural nuances in the global economy.”

Busiest, Slowest Months for Conferencing

InterCall found that October is the busiest month for conferencing globally. The analysis also reinforced long-held notions that work slows down in December in most regions due to holidays and comes to a halt outside North America in August.

October likely takes the top spot because it starts off a new fiscal quarter and is also a common time to begin planning and budgeting for the following year, Bellmar said.

April and May are the next busiest months for conferencing. April kicks off another fiscal quarter and contains a tax deadline. “April is also the most likely annual earnings call month for those on a regular calendar fiscal year,” Bellmar said.

Holidays make December the slowest time of the year for business calls, followed by February, the shortest month of the year, and November.

Bellmar pointed out that the three slowest months of the year occur during the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere. This finding could point to employees in usually busy North America and Europe slowing down due to inclement weather or winter vacations.

“December drop-offs were common but not completely global,” Bellmar said. Switzerland experienced the biggest drop-off with a 29.5 percent decrease from its average monthly minutes. Belgium (29.2 percent), Singapore (28.5 percent), Australia (25.9 percent) and Finland (23.1 percent) rounded out the top five biggest drop-offs during December. The United States came in at 19.9 percent lower than its average monthly minutes.

China and Japan, however, were noticeably absent from this trend. Conferencing minutes in China fell just 1.5 percent short of the norm, while Japan’s minutes actually rose 2.2 percent.

Europe Shuts Down in August

Outside of North America, August is a popular month to take a respite from work, and conferencing minutes trended down—especially in Europe, which experienced a 27.7 percent drop in minute usage compared to its monthly average, according to InterCall.

Conferencing minutes in Central America and the Caribbean dropped 20.6 percent, and in the Middle East and North Africa they fell 17 percent. Broken down by country, the top five biggest decreases in 2013 August minutes occurred in France (55.1 percent), Italy (52.5 percent), Spain (49.5 percent), Belgium (33.5 percent) and Switzerland (30.7 percent). The United Kingdom experienced a less severe drop of 13.5 percent.

Conversely, North America’s call volume rose 9.5 percent in August. Minute usage in the United States grew 1.9 percent compared to the monthly average, while Mexico (up 11.5 percent), Australia (12.4 percent) and Brazil (13.7 percent) registered dramatic growth.

Linking Conferencing to Economic Growth

Increases and decreases in conferencing minutes reflect business activity, and possibly even provide clues about a country or region’s economic growth, according to InterCall. “While there are certainly other economic indicators at work, a few interesting correlations did occur between regional gross domestic product (GDP) growth and the number of conferencing minutes used in 2013,” Bellmar said.

For example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated Europe’s 2013 GDP growth at zero percent. “Conferencing minutes reflected that failed growth as the calls actually decreased by about 2 percent over the course of the year,” Bellmar said.

North America’s slight 1.5 percent GDP growth is reflected in the continent’s conferencing minutes, which remained almost exactly even.

Finally, the South American economy relatively soared at 3.2 percent GDP growth in 2013, and conferencing minutes were up around 100 percent through the year.

InterCall plans to release a similar study of international conferencing data for 2014 to monitor these trends over time.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

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