How to make the most out of online videoconferencing

videoconference_don burns_videoconferencing_tools for communication in startups
Image courtesy of Steve Bowbrick at Flickr.com

In this post we will delve into a tool that may not be widely used in general, but can be very useful for many more cases and scenarios than you might think: We’re talking about videoconferencing.

Let us first know a little more about this tool, and then we’ll see how to make efficient connections to make of this technology an ally, not a problem.

As a short and simple definition, we can say that videoconferencing is a communication system established through telematic channels (mainly through the Internet) which enables the transmission of audio and video between two or more people.

Advantages and uses of videoconferencing

Videoconferencing can be used in many cases. It is not only a tool available for large business meetings or technical experts. A few years ago, the use of this system was limited to specific devices that were interconnected, but today there are many software applications (both for desktop and web access) which offer lots of options and features.

In what cases can we use videoconferencing?

  • Internal communication in geographically distributed teams (occasionally or regularly):

    • Project coordination meetings. For a well-coordinated team, meetings with a maximum frequency of one or two weeks may be set. These meetings can be conducted via video conference if the work teams have offices in different geographical locations or in situations where some team members are in a different location due to the requirements of a particular activity.
    • Presentation of new projects, products or services to team members. A good internal communication practice is to do presentations of new projects, products or services to team members before they are available to the general public. Our team’s members will be the main prescribers of our services.
    • Assistance to coworkers for questions or technical problems. The video conferencing system allows us to share our screens to show step by step instructions.
    • Internal training. If the company has defined training or initiation programs for new workers, the videoconferencing system can be an excellent means through which provide online seminars.

  • External communication with customers or partners:

    • Meetings to present services: In the context of the globalized market in which we live today, it is difficult to think that all meetings with potential clients or partners can be carried out in person. If I, Don Burns, have a business in London and the possibility emerges of offering my services to a client in the United States, the videoconferencing system would be a key channel for me to make that initial contact.
    • Project status meetings: When implementing services or products for customers, we can establish monitoring milestones to assess and analyze the status of the project. In cases where a face-to-face meeting is not feasible, doing it via videoconference it quite operational.
    • Consulting and technical support. Troubleshooting, questions or inquiries with a faster and more affordable service for the customer or partner.
    • Customer training. After a project has been implemented, there are occasions where further training is conducted for individual or collective clients. Training through videoconferencing is more flexible, convenient and affordable. In addition, many systems can record the session so that it can be consulted later, eliminating the need to take additional notes.
  • Personal use:

    • Every day it’s more common to find cases where we have friends and family outside our city or country. Mobile devices with video conferencing systems allow us to have a more fluid and close communication with these special people.
participants and videoconference_videoconferencing_don burns_tools for communication in startups
Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum at Flickr.com

What are the benefits of videoconferencing?

  • Cost reduction. It directly allows us to save travel and accommodation costs for meetings in different geographical locations. In addition, there is a hidden cost that we don’t always value: our time. When we organize a meeting by videoconference, we are usually spending the time we have scheduled for that meeting. However, in the case of face-to-face meetings we must add the time it takes us to go back and forth to that of the meeting itself. Our time is much more valuable than we think.
  • Market breadth. How many companies would open new markets if they had to invest resources in regular commutings to each of these new markets? E-commerce is a clear example of a globalized service that uses videoconferencing systems to make agreements with local partners, suppliers from other countries, or customer support from different countries.
  • Competitiveness. Videoconferencing expands service capacity and efficiency in the execution of business processes.
  • Flexibility and comfort. It’s as simple as setting a schedule that is common for all participants, and actually have the meeting. Something as complicated as working with companies or professionals with totally different time zones, can be solved easily with coordination and monitoring meetings via videoconference in common hours.

Importantly, although the video conferencing system allows the simultaneous transmission of video and audio, we can sometimes hold sessions and meetings in which only audio is used, either for convenience or reducing the bandwidth required for that connection.

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