Video conferencing is one of a companies most powerful tools when communicating with different divisions or plants that are located across borders or even in different buildings. While videoconferencing is nothing new, it is an always evolving market. Previously, Skype was one of the largest video conference players until the company Cisco stepped in with their total office packages which includes WiFi, telephone, and video conferencing. Regardless of which service provider you decide to go with, teleconferencing is critical to a business by reducing the need to travel in order to bring people, ideas, and technology together.
As mentioned before, the idea of talking to a hologram or a person over some futuristic technology (as seen in the Jetsons) has been around since I was a child. However; today these dreams have become a reality by bringing people face-to-face even though they are separated by thousands of miles over an audio and video channel feed. While e-mail chains are an adequate form of communication, it can often fall short due to the following benefits of video conferencing:
- Live connection and conversation is needed in real time
- Traveling to a location for a meeting proves to be too costly
- Traveling over borders is not possible for certain parties (Visa free travel is a luxury many countries do not experience when entering countries such as the USA)
- Non-verbal or visual queues are important to decipher how another party reacts to your comments or business proposals.
- Non-verbal communication is necessary due to hearing loss
Some of the things to keep in mind when communicating to another branch location via video conferences include:
Signal latency: Latency refers to the time required to transmit the signal from your internet address to the recipient. If not properly monitored the listeners may accidentally interrupt the speaker causing at least an interruption, but if taken in correctly, and in many cultures, can come off as rude or that you do not trust the person speaking.
Bandwidth: Bandwidth is the medium in which the data is transported between the receiver and the sender. Many countries may experience lower bandwidth speeds resulting in low resolution video, audio stutter, high latency, and frustration at each end due to the inability to communicate naturally. Other countries may also have data limits in which their internet only supports the first ‘x’ amount of video time. When working with poorer or disconnected countries before to check with their IT department if that will be a limiting factor.
Eye Contact: The main reason video conferencing is popular is due to the feeling of a natural conversation, you can see the person speak, react, and ask questions allowing you to take in the visual queues that help people communicate non-verbally. Just as in normal discussions, keep in mind where the camera is located because if it is in an odd or inconvenient spot, it may appear to your viewers as though you are talking to a wall. Therefore, it is always important to be conscious of where the camera is and attempt to make eye-contact with the camera lens to give your viewers a more personal interaction. We realize this is difficult to always be aware of especially in a high stakes business meeting, so as a result companies are placing the video camera above or under the television giving the appearance that the viewers are talking in the general direction.
Recording: The final benefit of teleconferencing I will leave you with is the fact that these can often be recorded and replayed in order to catalog the details of the business transaction. In many businesses these recordings can hold as a verbal agreement between two parties. In other situations, such as technical talks between two cross-functional teams at the same company, they can serve as product or production details which will help other teams learn and share the knowledge with their co-workers.
The benefits of telecommunication are endless and can impact, education, government, law, medicine, health, society, and entertainment.
When we are involved in designing or setting up a conference room, several factors need to be addressed in order to improve the appearance of the speaking and listening party. For large conferences there is generally a large oval or oblong table with multiple microphones at each chair so each member on the panel or committee is able to clearly voice their opinion or thoughts with the receiver. Additionally, windows are always an added bonus to be included in a work place. Our studies show that people are less drowsy in the morning when they are exposed to natural sunlight. So we have worked with a specific window contractor to design the windows for each of our conference rooms so that the employees can benefit from the natural light, and still concentrate on their meeting. Commonly, blinds are installed as well in the event that confidential information is being shared and access needs to be limited. Lastly, the layout of the video conference table needs to properly include each of the parties involved to keep the flow of the meeting as close to natural conversation as possible. If there are limited microphones, blurry camera images, or not enough viewing angle to see everyone present, the room needs to be redesigned by our office contractors to help improve the efficiency of the meeting taking place.