You want to schedule a meeting with your team to discuss an ongoing or upcoming project. The only trouble is, people on your team work remotely. Getting them to all come into the office at the same time proves challenging.
Fortunately, technology makes it easy to get people together for a meeting or conference. Thanks to video conferencing, your team can talk face-to-face without having to be in the same room or even the same state or country.
Learn more about the top benefits of video conferencing and the top reasons for your company to use it.
What Is Video Conferencing?
Video conferencing is in many ways similar to any other type of conference call. It allows two or more people to communicate with each other in real time, without being in the same location. Unlike a telephone conference, a video conference allows participants to see each other during the call. In addition to letting participants see one another during the meeting, video conferencing also often provides the option of sharing information, such as documents or a presentation, during the call.
Although video conferencing is similar to a video call, it usually has more than two participants. A video conference might take place among all members of a project team, between your team and a client’s team or between your team and your company’s shareholders. In some cases, the number of participants who can hop on a video conference is unlimited.
What Technologies Are Used in Video Conferencing?
Video conferencing relies on a variety of different pieces of equipment and technology. A video conferencing system needs to send data to participants, and it needs to create the feeling that the participants are all in the same room, rather than in different locations. Although the exact technology used and the specific equipment required for a video conference can vary slightly based on an organization’s needs, generally speaking, the following are all needed for a video conference to work.
1. Software Program
A software program is usually at the heart of any video conference. Many different programs exist, and each one has its pros and cons. A program that’s right for one company might not be a good fit for another business. For example, some programs allow people to join the video conference using a laptop or other computer or by dialing in from a phone. Many programs limit the number of attendees or participants in the meeting, although some software programs have a more generous allowance than others.
In some cases, the software that powers the video conference is integrated into the hardware. In others, the software is a stand-alone app that works with a variety of devices.
2. Internet Connection
The audio and video need to travel from one person’s device to another person’s device for a video conference to work. One way for the data to travel is over a high-speed internet connection. The prevalence of high-speed internet connections among businesses has made video conferencing a reality for many companies. The faster a company’s internet connection, the more it can do with the video and the better the quality of the video.
3. Video Input/Output
People participating in a video conference need a way to see what goes on and a way to participate in the discussion visually. Video input equipment is usually a camera, such as a webcam attached to a laptop or a stand-alone video camera. In some cases, the video input can be the screen of a computer or digital whiteboard.
Video output equipment includes devices that display the images from the video conference. The equipment can consist of a laptop screen or desktop monitor, a video projector and screen, a television, LCD display or video wall.
4. Audio Input/Output
Like the video, the audio needs to travel in and out as part of the conference. Audio input equipment is often a microphone or a set of microphones. Depending on the setup of the conference, a microphone might be built-in to a laptop or might be a stand-alone piece of equipment. In some conference rooms, microphones are placed throughout the space or centrally located, such as on a table.
Audio output equipment can include speakers, such as those built into a laptop or desktop, a pair of headphones, or a fully integrated audio system with amplifier and speakers throughout the room.
5. Acoustic Echo Cancellation Equipment
A potential drawback of a poorly designed video conference system is the delayed echo that can occur when a person speaking, is heard in the far end system and the speech is picked up and sent back to the originating system. For that reason, echo cancellation technology is often part of a video conferencing program. The technology reduces the delay in the audio so feels and sounds natural.
Room-Based vs. Web-Based Video Conferencing
When you research video conferencing technologies, you will likely come across web-based technology compared to room-based technology. One way to understand the difference between web-based and room-based video conferencing is that one method is software dependent while the other is hardware dependent. Many video conferencing platforms can utilize both web-based and room-based systems.
If an organization is going to use web-based video conferencing, anyone participating in the meeting, presentation or conference needs to download a software program to their computer or smartphone. The software program uses the built-in hardware on a person’s device, such as the microphone, speakers and web camera. Web-based video conferencing is ideal for companies with a lot of remote workers.
Room-based video conferencing is hardware dependent and designed for organizations that plan on hosting video meetings or presentations from a set location. The hardware required for the conferencing system to work is set up in one area, such as a conference room or a designated huddle room.
What Organizations Use Video Conferencing?
Organizations in a wide range of industries have found a way to use video conferencing in their day-to-day operations. In some cases, video conferencing has improved the quality of service an organization can provide or has expanded the reach of a company. Here are a few examples of organizations that can use video conferencing and the ways they can use it.
- Healthcare providers: Healthcare providers can use video conferencing to provide telemedicine. Instead of a patient coming in to see a doctor every time they feel somewhat under the weather, they can schedule a video appointment with their provider. The provider can take their history and review of symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis of what’s going on. Healthcare providers can also use video conferencing to communicate with other members of a patient’s care team.
- Educational providers: Teachers can use video conferencing to hold open office hours and meetings with their students outside of classroom time. Schools and teachers can also use video conferencing to make classes available to a broader group of students. Instead of requiring in-person meetings, the course can take place virtually, with students logging in to watch their teacher’s lectures and to participate in discussions.
- Lawyers and courts: Courts often use video conferencing to hear the testimony of a witness who cannot be there in a person. Attorneys can use video conferencing to take depositions or to communicate with other lawyers about a case.
- Small and medium-sized businesses: More than 40% of employees in the US work at least part of the week remotely. Video conferences give small and medium-sized businesses the chance to hire people who live anywhere in the country and to keep in contact with those employees regularly.
- Governments: Government agencies can use video conferencing to communicate in times of crisis or for more mundane issues, such as a review of the budget. Video conferencing also allows government agencies to communicate with each other without having to schedule an in-person meeting.
Top Reasons to Use Video Conferencing
No matter what type of organization you work for or run, there’s likely a way to incorporate video conferencing into your operations. Some of the top reasons to use it include:
- Connecting with distant employees: Video conferences let managers touch base with people who work remotely regularly. Video also allows you to communicate with team members who work in another branch location or who might be on the road for the job.
- Reaching a wider audience: Video conferences can make classes and educational programming more accessible to more people. For example, schools can create massive online open courses (MOOCs) that students from around the world can sign up for. Professors and instructors can record themselves giving a lecture for students to watch live or on their own time.
- Providing better service: It can often be more efficient and cost-effective for a company to video conference than to schedule in-person meetings. For example, video meetings allow a doctor to see patients quickly and to reach the bottom of a problem faster.
- Facilitating communication: It’s often more cost-effective for companies to screen candidates via a phone call rather than have them come in for in-person interviews, at least in the early rounds of a candidate search. Using video meetings can help a manager or search committee see and hear if a candidate is qualified enough to move to the next round.
What Are the Advantages of Video Conferencing?
No matter how you use it, there are many advantages of video conferencing. When you decide whether to use a video conferencing system, it’s a good idea to take a close look at the advantages and disadvantages of holding online meetings and video calls. Among the benefits are:
1. Video Conferencing Offers Greater Flexibility
If you’ve ever tried to schedule a meeting with more than three people and tried to get those people in the same place at the same time, you know the challenge. With video conferencing, it doesn’t matter where meeting participants are located, so you have more flexibility and freedom. If you give a presentation to a large group, you can record it using the conferencing technology and make it available later for people who couldn’t “attend” the live event.
2. Video Conferencing Helps Remote Workers Feel Part of the Team
Although many people who work from home or in remote positions love it, there are some drawbacks to remote work. One of those drawbacks is that people can feel isolated or separated from their co-workers. About one out of every five remote workers said that loneliness was their biggest struggle when working remotely.
Companies that use video conferencing can help their remote employees feel more involved by giving them a chance to see their coworkers and engage with them. Video conferencing offers coworkers who might live in different time zones or different countries the opportunity to speak with each other. Team members can share what they work on and ask their coworkers for advice and support.
3. Video Conferencing Can Save Your Company Money
While it does cost money to set up and implement video conferencing technology, in the long run, many organizations using it find that it’s a money-saver or even a money maker. If your company uses online meetings to screen candidates, it doesn’t have to pay to bring candidates in for an in-person interview. Video conferencing also reduces your company’s travel budget as it won’t have to fly in distant remote workers for check-ins or meetings, nor will it have to pay to fly managers out for events.
Since video conferencing often allows an organization to expand the products it offers clients, it can create additional streams of revenue.
4. Video Conferencing Allows You to Hire Anyone, Anywhere
Another advantage of video conferencing is that it can make your company’s applicant pool much bigger. Instead of limiting yourself to local candidates or covering the moving costs and other travel expenses of out-of-town candidates, you can hire workers from wherever. That means you are more likely to attract highly qualified applicants and won’t have to turn people down because they live too far away.
Are There Disadvantages of Video Conferencing?
While there are many benefits and advantages of using video conferencing, there are some potential drawbacks as well. One concern many organizations have when it comes to adding a video conferencing system to their business is the cost of the technology. While there are free options available, many organizations are better served by a paid option. It’s a good idea to evaluate the cost of the technology and to weigh the available options before deciding on a video conferencing system.
How Video Conferencing Can Work for Your Organization
Video conferencing can open new doors for your organization by allowing you to reach a broader audience or helping you better connect with your employees. The most important thing to remember when examining video conferencing technology is to choose a system that works best for you, and that will best meet your organization’s needs. A room-based system might serve you well, or your company might benefit from a web-based system.
Luckily, you aren’t on your own when it comes to implementing a video conferencing system. Morefield Communications’ team of engineers can design a video conferencing solution that meets your specific needs and solves your particular problems. Contact us today to learn more. You can also give us a call at (717) 761-6170.