When you think of web conferencing, what comes to mind? If you think about static cameras broadcasting from one end of a conference table to bored participants elsewhere, you haven't thought about this in a while. Things have changed, including what we want from video during meetings.
A recent study from Forrester discussed on the Corner Office blog talked about how many companies are thinking about incorporating video into their meetings and businesses.
The numbers were interesting. Of a thousand companies interviewed, all of them planned to use desk-top video (webcams, basically), four out of 10 planned to use high-definition room-based solutions (good for group to group meetings ) and a quarter were looking at truly immersive video conferencing solutions (like TelePresence and other high-end solutions).
So what does your organization need? It depends on how you do business.
Simple webcam conferencing often doesn't get much respect, but it's impact on the day to day operation of your team, project or sales effort is easy to underestimate. Knowing who you're speaking to, putting faces to names and getting visual cues along with the audio information is vital to creating great human relationships. It also has some additional advantages:
- It doesn't cost much (if anything at all) since Skype, Google Chat, and most company web meeting platforms offer it
- It includes people who aren't sitting at desks in an office. (Many platforms now allow for people to connect on tablets or smart phones
- It's crazy easy to use and can be done informally. The less of a big deal it is, the more people will use it.
- A $30 webcam is all the investment you need, assuming you're not working with a laptop that already has one built in
But be aware that webcams really stink for broadcasting training or other group activities.
Room-to-room video conferencing is worth the investment in certain instances. Just think carefully: is a static shot of a conference room with bad sound really going to add value? Some of these setups are amazingly robust. You can zoom in on the speaker, get good sound quality and really help people collaborate. Just understand how your team will use the tools before investing. In this case you really get what you pay for.
High-Tech systems are really cool. They have some advantages (incredibly lifelike connections, shrinking distances and impressing the people you're meeting with). They also have disadvantages (you have to go from one facility to another, those on the road or not near an office are pretty much out of luck.
These are best used for high-end, high-stakes presentations (think CEO to CEO or Lawyer to Lawyer), and / or if most of your work is done in office locations and / or if the ability to pay for the best money can buy is important to your corporate image.
The point here is that while video is playing an important part in the way we work remotely, it's important to understand what we mean when we say "video conferencing". Otherwise your IT or finance person might be having an unnecessary panic attack.
It's also not a cure-all. If you don't use the right tool in the right way it's not going to help.