Business Video Conferencing For An Effective Meeting
By: John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer
As profit margins have shrunk and web-based video meetings have become inexpensive, even as their quality and reliability have improved, more and more small business owners have turned on those laptop cameras to save on travel and conduct effective meetings.
“Even if a company travels only once or twice a month, videoconferencing can save them tens of thousands of dollars a year,” says Bernard Moon, CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Vidquik, a web-based videoconferencing service for small business.
Still, for entrepreneurs, there’s a dilemma: For a customer who’s got an agenda of middling importance, should I fly in an account manager or sales exec, or will a well-prepared videoconference do the trick?
Let’s look at some of the key inputs, including when to videoconference and when to travel.
Effective Meetings: Is videoconferencing Cheap Enough?
In recent years, the costs of videoconferencing of reasonable quality have plummeted from thousands of dollars to perhaps hundreds or less per year for a small business.
Even just a few years ago, “videoconferencing was a free, low-resolution experience where the medium was more of a distraction than a help,” says Bernardo de Albergaria, vice president at Citrix Online of Santa Clara, Calif, which makes GoToMeeting with HD Faces. “It was small thumbnails of the participants, all pixelated. Now it’s much better.”
Indeed, web-based videoconferencing has become cheap enough and good enough to make it worthy of consideration for several kinds of long-distance meetings.
Videoconferencing vs. Teleconferencing
Video has a particular value in those teleconferences where a substantial body of new information is communicated.
With teleconferencing, “when we present new ideas or prototypes, there’s no feedback from the audience,” says Mike Huska, chief technology officer at Incential Software in Phoenix.
“It’s hard to tell whether they like it or they’re lost. In a videoconference, you can see a smile, or confusion.” Incential uses Citrix’ GoToMeeting.
“Video lets you read nonverbal signals,” says Moon. For example, what might remain an uncomfortable silence on the phone can more easily be addressed and resolved when there’s visual contact among all parties.
Even among a group of far-flung colleagues with frequent contact and common goals, video helps to support the human side of working relationships. “We have staff meetings, and video gives us the feeling of face time,” says Huska.
Internal meetings are also a good testing ground for added-value features that are popping up in more web-based videoconferencing services: screen sharing, presentation sharing, whiteboarding, private chat, and so on.
Video and the Hiring Process
With so many talented professionals available on the job market across the country, many entrepreneurs are itching to take their searches national.
With initial rounds of video interviews, small employers can access the entire US labor market and narrow the candidate pool to a few finalists via virtual recruitment tools.
Of course, videoconferencing can save lots of time in a regional recruitment effort as well.
“Recruiters are saying that they can be much more efficient via video meeting versus getting in a car to see a candidate,” says Sean O’Brien, an executive vice president at PGi, maker of videoconferencing service iMeet in Atlanta.
The key is knowing how to interview – virtually – and follow the proper legal guidelines.
When Can Videoconferencing Replace Travel?
The toughest decisions about when to videoconference center on how you makes sales. For pitches with considerable potential, there’s a consensus that the meeting must be face-to-face, literally not virtually.
"There’s no replacement for in-person, especially on the initial sales call,” says Huska. Once that meeting has happened, the sales force may be able to reinforce the relationship with video meetings.
“We find videoconferencing is replacing many follow-up visits for our own salesforce,” says de Albergaria.
Of course, you can’t decide in a vacuum when to meet by video and when to make the trip.
“The decision of whether to use videoconferencing instead of in-person should be based on the social norms of your industry and business community,” says Moon.
It makes sense to test the video waters with clients who seem comfortable with technology and flexible with meeting arrangements, and who trust you to make them happy in the long run.
“Every business owner needs to find what works for them,” says O’Brien.