What is the history of video conferencing in business?
Since the late 1960’s there have been countless iterations of video conferencing solutions. The Picturephone from AT&T allowing two people to sit down and communicate via video was a catalyst for other companies interested in connecting people. From then on, many players entered the race and many still work in that space today.
In many ways, video conferencing got its start in the business world before making its way to the masses in consumer markets. Businesses were the ones who could afford and justify early systems as they sought to connect with business partners across oceans. It was only once wifi and high-definition video camera technology in phones and laptops were developed that connecting via video move outside of the boardroom and into the hands of employees throughout the organizations. Individuals could now connect via video using their personal devices affording them options and opportunities they never had before.
Four examples of how people use video conferencing in business.
Today, video conferencing is used in a number of ways. The simplest definition of the video conferencing is two physically separated individuals communicating via technology using live video and audio. Within that framework, examples of businesses using this technology include:
External meetings or multipoint conferencing
This method of video conferencing usually takes place between three or more participants either in a boardroom, huddle room, or focus room. In this example, a meeting host will send links to attendees joining online. Team members of one company will connect with another company or clients in another location to share information in a group setting. The technology involved often includes multiple cameras, microphones, speakers, and displays positioned within a large conference room.
Internal meetings or point-to-point conferencing
In this instance, a company may have an in-office employee and a remote staff collaborating on a project together. Here, coworkers will talk face-to-face on projects and share their screen to show information the remote attendee cannot otherwise see. This kind of communication allows employees to maintain flexibility. While they may spend part of the day in the office, appointments can take them away throughout the day. The ability to remotely connect helps them participate in meetings they would otherwise miss due to proximity.
In the past, if you wanted to learn something, you had to come in person. Today that is very different with webinars and seminars being hosted almost exclusively online. Companies have discovered new ways to expand their reach and share their message with consumers through virtual learning events. In some cases, in-person events are broadcast to remote participants to broaden the audience. Some people like to attend in person while others want to skip the travel. This gives everyone what they want.
Some companies have used video conferencing to support their company culture. Virtual happy hours, philosophy cafes, and all company updates help employees stay connected, engaged, and have fun even when physically separate. This is especially helpful for large companies with multiple locations working toward integrating teams full of different people with diverse backgrounds.
Is video conferencing good for business?
The short answer is yes. Any time a business can improve communication between teams, save money, and increase their opportunities to sell is a win. Video conferencing allows businesses to recruit the best talent from virtually anywhere in the world without the need for that talent to relocate. That is assuming of course that they fully support remote work options. It also makes it easier to build relationships because there is that face-to-face interaction. You can tell a decent amount about how someone is feeling based on the tone of their voice, but seeing their face and body language tells the rest of the story.
To learn more, read our blog, “9 Ways Video Conferencing Benefits Communication”.
Who was the first company to introduce remote work?
Remote work is not a new concept. For centuries, skilled workers eg. Farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and so on have worked from their homes or set up shop there. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that we began to see production lines and manufacturing on such a large scale. Using the Ford Motor Company for example, production and the sheer number of employees had not been seen on that level often. With so much needing supervision on-site, employees began “commuting to work” like never before. Since then, working in office has become the norm for the majority of businesses. Each started building or renting properties to house their large employee base and people got used to driving to and from work and spending hours in traffic.
The first remote work policy on record, as we understand it today, was implemented by IBM in 1979. The company allowed five of its employees to work from home. The experiment worked and by 1983, there were 2,000 people allowed to work from home. Telecommuting has only grown in popularity since then with companies leveraging remote workers to keep operating costs low as they scale their businesses. Others support the trend for environmental reasons. They want to limit the vehicles on the road to help lower air and noise pollution.
Most recently, companies in mass sent their employees to work from home in response to COVID-19. This caused a huge shift in business and employee perspectives on how and where people can work and remain productive. Many companies chose to keep many employees remote even after they could safely return to work. Meanwhile, others struggled to coax their newly liberated work force back to the office, partially because video conferencing made the commute unnecessary.
Why do people prefer to work from home?
People prefer to work from home for numerous reasons ranging from work-life balance, finances, time saved, etc. Employees who work from home automatically gain more personal time often sacrificed in a commute. They can collaborate efficiently with coworkers and fit in chores around the home. Many have kids or pets that they can watch while working from home allowing them to save money on daycare. Additionally, many prefer the choice they have throughout their day. They can start the morning on the couch and move to the kitchen table before ending in a private home office. With video conferencing tools at their fingertips, employees recognize that they can easily produce the same quality of work from home without the extra hassle of the commute.
When is video conferencing necessary?
Whether businesses decide to support teleworking options or not, it is no secret that video conferencing has become a very necessary part of work today. It is normal for companies to grow and modern technology makes that easier. Using video conferencing saves companies time, improves their communication with staff and clients, and helps them capitalize on new opportunities. Video conferencing is crucial for companies who are looking to expand into new markets but are headquartered elsewhere. It helps everyone stay on the same page with less miscommunication. It is also an important part of keeping people connected by ensuring the human element (face-to-face contact) remains intact. People want to work with people and seeing another human being’s face is irreplaceable. If a company is interested in growth while maintaining inherently human communication, then video conferencing is a must.
What are common drawbacks of video conferencing?
Common drawbacks of video conferencing can be split into two fields of through, the purely technical side, and the human side. On the technical side, common drawbacks include poor internet connectivity leading to lag in video or audio, user error when running the system, inadequate collaboration tools, and inequity for remote participants.
On the human side, video conferencing does a great job bridging the gap of distance, but it is still not the same as being in the same room as someone. Physical touch, like a hand-shake, is not something you can do virtually and that is a connection that means a lot to people in business. There are also many conversations that happen outside of an online meeting that build trust and comradery between coworkers or clients. When a remote participant is joining a call and jumping right into business, they can often lose the chance to connect on an emotional level.
What are some benefits of video conferencing?
The benefits video conferencing can bring a company, however, far outweigh the drawbacks. For starters, this technology allows businesses to easily connect with people they never would have or could have otherwise. While it isn’t the same as being in the same room, it is as close as most people will or can ever get when separated by oceans. It opens doors for employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, companies to save money on physical space, improve collaboration, communication, and productivity, reach a wider audience, and keep consistent records. With all those things in mind, video conferencing connect people like never before, and when people feel connected, they get more done, which is great for business.
To learn more, read our blog, “Advantages and Disadvantages of Video Conferencing in Business”.
Four of the best video conferencing features for business.
There are some key video conferencing features for business that people use most frequently. The include screen sharing, Whiteboarding, video recording, and in-meeting chats.
This feature is a must-have solution for collaborating effectively online. Businesses can share imagery, presentations, videos, data, and more with the easy click of a button. Some applications allow people to share their screen whether they are the meeting host or not, while others require the host to grant permission first. More control from the host can be a good idea especially for webinars with hundreds of remote viewers. Screen sharing directs participant’s attention to the shared information on the screen while the presenter can keep discussing a topic. It also allows for easier brainstorming and decision-making.
When you are in an online meeting, using a physical whiteboard for brainstorming or note taking is not an option. That is why many video conferencing apps have created virtual whiteboarding features to support online teams. Some apps make whiteboarding tools accessible through their screen shares where instead of sharing a mirror image of the screen, users can open a collaborative whiteboard and provide simultaneous access for all remote collaborators. Some whiteboarding tools are infinite so you never run out of space.
Depending on the type of meeting, video recording can be an extremely important feature for businesses. Whether they are creating training videos or keeping record of what was said, a recording is great for documentation. Other times, employees simply can’t attend a meeting and need to catch up. Video recording is an especially good feature for webinars and seminars that businesses want to share the presentation with attendees.
Chat features allow meeting participants to hold multiple conversations at a time without interrupting the speaker. During a presentation, someone can chat with another remote attendee about ways to implement what the speaker is saying. Or a participant can ask the presenter a question to answer later. In the case of a live webinar, a speaker can present undistracted while an assistant simultaneously fields questions from attendees. Chat features open up a lot of great communication possibilities for businesses.
For a more in-depth look, read our blog, “What Is The Best Video Conferencing Platform For Business?”
Partnering With An Integrator
Video conferencing has been around for decades, but it has more capabilities and features than ever. Knowing what software, features, and solutions are best for your business can be complicated. If you want a partner with industry knowledge to help you pick the best video conferencing solutions within your budget, OEC can help.
We are a full service, audio-visual integration team of who can help with av designer, product procurement, installation, and service. We have deep industry knowledge and can help recommend the best software and hardware solutions to help you look and sound great internally and in front of your most important clients. Start reaching more customers today by contacting us!
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