Skype is not the limit
Video conferencing was once the preserve of the boardrooms of the largest corporations. Not any more.
It used to be that costs were simply too high to justify the technology for smaller businesses. And the complicated set up was enough to put off most of those who could afford it.
Fast-forward to today and the barriers to entry have been smashed. Videoconferencing isn’t just for the top companies. Instead, our research shows that 60% of businesses are either already using, or plan to use video conferencing in the near future.
Consumer applications like Skype mean that anyone can make video calls for just the cost of a webcam and microphone (and if you're using Apple's FaceTime, you don't even need that).
But although Skype and co. do the job for social communications, we wouldn’t recommend using them as a long term business solution. A jerky Skype conversation is unlikely to cut the mustard in the professional environment, where you need to impress a partner or potential new client and first impressions are vital.
The good news is that with modern video conferencing systems, muffled voices, broken calls and time spent waiting for a screen to load are a thing of the past. The even better news is that the cost of a high quality, professional video conferencing solution is probably a lot less than you think.
The benefits are pretty straightforward:
- Save money on travelling to meetings
- Reduce travelling time
- Connect quickly with colleagues, suppliers, partners and clients, based all over the world
- Improve your green credentials
With benefits so clear, it’s worth considering why 40% of businesses we spoke to remain reluctant.
A typical argument against video conferencing is that, as advanced as the technology is, people will always prefer face-to-face contact.
While this may be so to an extent, the thing about video conferences is that you can - spoiler alert! - see the other participants in the conference. People can see your body language and facial expressions, and that goes some way to helping make meetings feel more personal and familiar. With crystal clear sound and HD broadcasting, virtual meetings are now able to very accurately replicate their real life alternatives.
But let's assume that you're in the 60% of businesses that are up for video conferencing. Here are 3 tips for getting it right:
1. Be aware of your surroundings and what's going on behind you
Be mindful of where you’re sitting and what’s going on around you. You might be wearing your best clobber and had a new haircut but if your colleagues in the background are creating a negative impression, it could mean a lost sale or a damaged relationship. Make sure you check that your background is tidy and professional, set up somewhere with minimal background noise, and make sure your co-workers know you’re in a meeting and not to interrupt.
2. Prepare for your meeting
There are a few basics to put in place to make sure your conference runs smoothly:
- Set up the meeting on your conferencing system and make sure everyone who needs to gets an invitation
- Give them instructions on how to join the meeting and whether they’ll need to install any software beforehand
- Send out an agenda so that everyone’s clear on what will be discussed
- Pre-load any documents you plan on sharing onto the system ahead of the meeting
- As with any meeting, be in the room slightly early to welcome the attendees (display a welcome message on screen if appropriate)
3. Running your video conference
Most of the skills you’ve gained from real life meetings will be of use here. But like audio conference calls, more moderating will be needed than in the flesh:
- Set out ground rules at the start around when people should speak up, or stay quiet – ask attendees to say their names before speaking if the audience don’t know each other’s voices
- Take an active role during the meeting and take responsibility for muting microphones or activating lines when required
- Make the most of the screen – use visuals to keep people engaged
- Don’t forget you’re on video - as the chair of the meeting, all eyes will be fixed on you so be on your best behaviour!
But video conferencing isn't just handy for virtual meetings. Many companies use it for training staff, connecting with remote workers, showing products to suppliers, or even, in the case of Driftwood Spars, connecting customers in Cornwall to wine producers in New Zealand.
Video conferencing: it's well worth looking at!