You’ve just closed a great deal! Now everyone needs to shake hands with each other, stand in a circle, and chant a sacred hymn of prosperity.
Then again, maybe modern business isn’t exactly like ancient rituals. Even so, no one doubts the importance of being able to have a solid meeting. That’s why doing business in person is always the best choice. But when that involves expensive flights and other travel expenses, the cost-benefit analysis might look a little different.
With today’s incredibly wide selection of video conferencing tools, it’s become a lot easier (not to mention savvier) to gather people together in a virtual meeting rather than fly them around the country.
Since there are a wide range of video conferencing tools, first you need to decide how much you want to pay.
If you always wanted your business to feel like Star Trek, you can choose to go with a high-end HD video conferencing provider like Cisco or Polycom. Just short of teleportation (and half a million dollars), these telepresence systems make you feel like you’re really all in the room together.
Otherwise, there are many other video conferencing applications that work great for small businesses.
Almost everyone’s heard of Skype and its cheap rates for international calls. Since the popular free version only allows for one-to-one video calls, you need to buy an upgrade for group video calls in order to video conference.
Instead you could try ooVoo, Yugma, or SightSpeed. These services let you video conference with multiple people at the same time, share files, and use virtual collaboration tools. Depending on which program and plan you choose, you could be video conferencing with as little as six or as many as 500 people.
Another cool app is TokBox, which actually lets you add a free video conferencing widget onto your company’s website that can increase user engagement.
The most obvious and immediate benefit to video conferencing is reducing travel costs. Since no one gets on a plane, there are no per diem expenses or lost productivity time because of jet lagged employees.
When multiplied across your company over a year, those savings can make it easier to justify paying for a monthly service or buying new equipment.
Video conferencing can also increase productivity for working groups that are spread out or just far apart. As anybody who’s ever picked up a phone loves pointing out, communication is actually 80% nonverbal. Being able to see a colleague can make a big difference in productivity, resulting in better decision making and more cohesion.
Dos and Don’ts
One of the biggest barriers to widespread use of video conferencing actually has nothing to do with technology. People just get nervous when they’re in front of a camera. Following some guidelines can make people feel more at ease.
DO figure out if you actually even need to see each other. If everyone’s working on a common project, they might not need to see each other to collaborate.
DO make sure everyone’s OK with participating in a video conference. Even though sweaty palms aren’t virtually noticeable, make sure people are comfortable with using the technology.
DON’T eat or check your phone constantly. You were never smooth at it in real life either.
DON’T have a video conference without a moderator. People can lose focus faster than in a face to face meeting, so make sure people are quick and direct when speaking.
While video conferencing can offer many benefits, some businesses find it hard to forget the old ways.
Even Polycom, a leader in high-end video conferencing, recognizes that business trips were part of a “time-honored business ritual.”
Whether anybody misses the chanting, black robes, or dimly lit boardrooms is another issue. (Just in case, HD web cameras offer great images in the dark).
What video conferencing tools do you use at your company? Are there any benefits to video conferencing that we missed? Tell us in the comments section below!