We explore the hardware and software you need to get the most out of video conferences and five reasons why you should.
Video is one of the most potent business communication tools around. Organizations love it for its productivity-boosting properties - according to research by Forbes Insights, 7 out of 10 executives say video conferencing enables employees to be more productive.1
And employees love it for the way it brings them closer. Seventy-eight percent of respondents in the same survey say video conferencing improves the sense connection among remote workers.
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From informing everyone about the return to the office to adopting a hybrid way of working, Workplace makes work more simple.
Even if companies weren’t won over by video communication before, it more than proved its worth during the significant shift to remote working during the pandemic, with an estimated 535% rise in daily video conferencing traffic during 2020. Being able to see and hear colleagues and customers while being miles away helped to shore up company culture in a time of uncertainty and change.
Many of the changes brought about by COVID-19 are likely to persist. It isn't easy to imagine people giving up the better work-life balance brought about by hybrid working or workers getting on a train or a plane to attend an hour-long meeting any time soon. So it's not surprising that companies have increased their spending on video conferencing, boosting a market estimated to be worth 13.82 billion by 2023.
What is video conferencing?
Video conferencing covers everything from meetings to internal comms designed to engage employees. One of the things that makes it so attractive to organizations is that it can do so much. You can use video for everything from:
- One-to-one calls
- Job interviews
- Team meetings
- Customer support
- Training sessions
- Company presentations
- Recruitment promotions
- Live streaming events
Video conferencing isn't new. The idea of holding a meeting where participants in different locations can see, hear and talk to each other has been around for longer than you might think. There were closed-circuit TV experiments in the 1960s and the introduction of a basic picture phone (which didn't catch on) in the 1970s.
But it wasn’t until the ‘90s that corporate video conferencing went mainstream. Even then, video meetings required expensive equipment, making them the preserve of large organizations. Recent advances mean things have come a long way with video communication accessible to anyone with a smartphone.
What is audio conferencing?
Audio conferencing isn't the same as simply making a phone call, as participants dial into a central system rather than an individual number. Like video, it's a way two or more people can take part in a meeting from any location. And it can offer some similar features to video conferencing - like recording, for example.
Audio conferencing might not be as versatile as video conferencing but you shouldn’t dismiss it. Video conferencing fatigue is real. Brought on by an overdose of video calls, according to Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson, it can cause people to feel stressed and emotionally drained. The antidote when you’ve had enough of seeing yourself on a screen but still need to have a meeting? An audio conference might do the job.
And don’t forget communication expert Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule. Words convey just 7% of meaning; 38% is tone of voice and 55% is body language. While it might not be quite as informative as seeing them, you can tell a lot from a person’s voice.
Top 7 tools for a quality video conference
Your video communication software should have all the features you need for full collaboration and company communication: meetings, brainstorms, workshops, presentations and more. Here are some of the essentials:
- Video chat. Knowing when to speak can be a tricky part of video conference etiquette, as you don’t get the body language cues that tell you when it’s OK to interrupt. A chat box means people can ask questions and make points while someone is speaking without interrupting. Chat boxes are also handy for presenters - in training, for example - allowing you to gauge people’s understanding and pick up on points as you go along
- Screen sharing. Seeing presentations and other documents while in the conference is a huge time saver and an excellent opportunity to collaborate. Your video conferencing software should allow everyone, not just the presenter, to share their screens and, even better, share multiple screens at the same time. If you can find software that enables participants to annotate shared documents, so much the better
- File sharing. Using your conferencing software to share files during a call is a big time saver. Make sure your software can support uploading different types of files - PDFs, PPTs, MP4s etc
- File storage. Software that allows you to store files can save space on your servers or cloud storage. It’s also handy to have your files stored on the conferencing servers as you can access them easily when you want to share them
- Device switching. Someone working remotely or on the frontline might want to start a video conference on mobile and then switch to desktop, for example. The software you choose should enable them to do this without glitches
- Recording. not being able to attend a meeting doesn't have to be a big deal with video conferencing. Provided your software allows you to do it, you can record the session and share it with anyone who needs to see it. A recording is also helpful for the material you'll want to use repeatedly, for example, when onboarding new starters
- Mobile app. Bringing deskless and frontline workers into the conversation is crucial for healthy company culture. So it's important that the software you choose lets people dial in to a conference wherever they are
Does video conferencing improve communication?
All the evidence says it does. Here are 5 ways video conferencing can improve communication at your organization.
Better connected remote and deskless workers
Research has found that 87% of remote team members feel more connected to their team by using video calls. Which is a good thing, as remote working isn’t going away any time soon. By increasing the use of video communication, companies can give their employees a greater sense of working towards a common goal, no matter where they are.
Video conferencing helps people feel happier at work. Of those who use video calls to collaborate remotely, 75% said the technology has enhanced their work-life balance, according to research by LifeSize.2
Almost 9 in 10 (89%) workers agree that their productivity benefits too, as they believe video calls reduce the time it takes to complete a task. It comes as no surprise when you think that 82% of workers are less likely to multitask on a video call than an audio call.
Ninety-eight percent of respondents to the LifeSize survey said that video conferencing helped build relationships inside and outside of their company. Video calls have clear benefits over audio calls - 63% of video users say they miss seeing their co-workers' faces when they can't join meetings.
According to Harvard Business Review, interactions between close team members have increased by 40% since the pandemic. Hybrid teams rely on the support of their colleagues now, more than ever.
Better quality of communication
Body language is absent during audio calls and tone of voice can be lost over emails. Video calls have the edge here, which can make it easier to get your point across. Smart features like screen sharing, chat windows and buttons to raise a hand during a meeting give hybrid teams a versatile platform to discuss ideas more effectively.
Efficient use of time and money
Forget jet lag and expensive hotel rooms - a virtual appointment saves everyone time and money. With the right tools, hybrid teams can concentrate on preparing for a call rather than booking a train ticket or finding a meeting room in a new city. Commuting to your next big meeting is as simple as opening a laptop or unlocking your phone.
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