Before we talk about video conferencing, lets look at conference calls in general. As someone who spends a large amount of their time working away from a set office, conference calls are very important to me. As with many people in my position I spend a significant part of my day on calls which has become just part of my day. Conference calls however have so many disadvantages compared to being physically in a meeting room.
The main issues are
- You can’t always hear what people are saying
- It is far more difficult to predict when someone is about to stop talking so you often end up talking over them
- Some people are too loud and some too quiet
- You can get distracted and tend to get on with other work so you aren’t really “in the meeting”
- You don’t participate as often as you would if you were in the room
- Those in the room can often forget you are even there
These reasons mean you have to approach conference calls differently to if you were in a physical meeting. However, no matter how hard you try, you will never be as productive.
Embrace the technology
Video conferences have been around for a large number of years now however we still haven’t embraced them for business as much as we should. Many of us use video calls a lot for contacting friends and family using technology such as Skype and FaceTime but why don’t we use it for business. With the rapid increase in broadband speeds and mobile data coverage, call quality is becoming far less of an issue. A big part of the problem is the inaccessibility to the technology. Most meeting rooms and board rooms don’t have Skype based conference call systems. They have full on meeting room systems that provide a superior quality and allow high quality calls between meeting rooms. This though comes at a price, it makes it far more difficult for individuals to connect into these conferences when not in an office such as working from a home office.
At home you don’t generally have full video conferencing systems, you are relying on Skype, or a Webex to connect to meetings. Many room systems are just not set up to accept calls like that. I have even seen rooms set up that can run in that way only to find that the organisation disables access from outside the corporate network which isolates home workers.
Home workers are a big part of many businesses now. Having the right technology in place enables a business to recruit the very best staff irrespective of their geographical location. No longer should we be tied to living less than a couple of hours away from the office.
Why Video Conferencing
Quite simply, it is far more engaging. Even the most basic of video conferencing setup allows you to more actively participate in the meeting. You can see your colleagues, you can read body language, and they will feel like you are really in the meeting and not just a voice on the phone.
Most video conferencing platforms allow shared content too. Not only can you now see the room, you can see the presentations, view the whiteboards, and even take control of the meeting.
The productivity gain in a single day of meetings is well worth the investment and something all businesses should consider. The amount of time lost in people travelling to attend a single meeting because they won’t be as productive on a telephone conference is staggering. If I have to travel 1.5 hours to attend a 1 hour meeting that is 3 hours of travelling time I have lost. That is 3 hours I could of spent working and being far more productive. When an organisation starts looking at that for lots of its employees, that figure of lost time starts to really add up.
Most medium sized and large organisations should even employ a dedicated member of staff to look after their video conferencing needs. After all, it is the entry point for all people that are unable to be on site.