Videoconferencing: the benefits and drawbacks of virtual meetings

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videoconferencing

A videoconference is a live connection between people in different locations. It involves both audio and video communication.

Videoconferencing also provides transmission of static images and text between two locations, in addition to transmission of full-motion video images and high-quality audio between multiple locations.

It also means conducting a conference between two or more participants at different sites by using computer networks to transmit audio and video data. For example, a point-to-point (two-person) videoconferencing system works much like a video telephone. Each participant has a video camera, microphone, and speakers mounted on his or her computer. As the two participants speak to one another, their voices are carried over the network and delivered to the other’s speakers, and whatever images appear in front of the video camera appear in a window on the other participant’s monitor.

Multipoint videoconferencing allows three or more participants to sit in a virtual conference room and communicate as if they were sitting right next to each other in a meeting room. Until the mid-90s, the hardware costs made videoconferencing prohibitive and expensive for most organizations, but that has changed. More and more businesses have adopted this form of communication to perform meetings, conclude business and offer training on and off site.

Videoconferencing software is quickly becoming standard computer equipment. For personal use, free or inexpensive videoconference software and a digital camera afford the user easy and cheap live connections to distant friends and family. Although the audio and video quality of such a minimal setup is not optimal, the combined benefits of a video link and long-distance savings may be quite persuasive. Examples of videoconferencing systems are Skype, Cisco, Blue Jeans, Visio, and Codian, among many others.

The advantages
This method of communication has a number of advantages that can be profitable for companies. Less travel means lower travel costs and time, videoconferencing is usually cheaper and faster than in-person meetings.

It also enables companies to internally strengthen the links between distant teams and quickly take decisions, and is a good tool for brain storming. Externally, it enables companies to have partnership discussions, trade negotiations or job interviews. These devices increase savings and make it easier to respect sustainable development criteria by, for example, reducing the carbon footprint incurred during travel.

In terms of group work, users can talk, transfer files, share programs, even send and receive graphic data. Virtual whiteboards make it possible for people to work on projects as a group from remote locations, making it easy to exchange data in real time. Presentations can reach multiple people in multiple locations, allowing for quicker deliberation, collaboration and decision making. On a more personal level, the face-to-face connection adds non-verbal communication to the exchange and allows participants to develop a stronger sense of familiarity with individuals whom they may never actually meet in person.

This form of conferencing promotes employees’ well-being, as it is much more flexible. Participants can join from work, school or home, making it possible to avoid the side effects of business travel: jet lag, logistics, separation from colleagues and family.

Some health facilities are hoping to use videoconferencing in the near future for consultations, and perhaps even referral surgery. For example, Dr. Ray Tamasi is pioneering video “telehealth” solutions where doctors can interact with patients by video in meeting spaces in various facilities. However, he believes that the dynamics have to be as much as possible as if doctor and patient were in the same room. “We need solutions that enable individuals to interact with one another in a way that feels like they are truly in the next chair,” he says.

The disadvantages
As useful as videoconferencing can be, there are some disadvantages. As in the example above, no matter how good the equipment is, it will never be as good as physically being in the same room as someone. People miss out on the visual clues provided by other people’s body language, for example, which can sometimes be more revealing than what they are actually saying. Some cultures prefer the business card exchange and handshake while performing businesses. As a result, it can be harder to engage with someone through a video screen, which means it can be harder to concentrate on what is being said. There can be a small time delay between responses too, which can lead to rather stilted conversations.

Another downside of video conferencing is that it puts users at the mercy of technology, which may decide to stop working halfway through a meeting. Dropped connections, camera malfunctions and choppy video streams can quickly make a video conference frustrating or useless. It is also worth noting that although video conferencing may work out to be cheaper than travelling to meetings, it is by no means free. Companies could pay quite a lot for a good quality reliable system and software, and still more to keep it maintained.

Time differences between different locations in the world means it is virtually impossible to find a reasonable time for everyone. Another drawback of using video conferencing to conduct interviews is that not everyone is comfortable using this format, so in some cases either the candidate or the employer opts for a face-to-face meeting instead.

Finally, security could be an issue with some videoconferencing meetings. It is true that in the business field, some meetings generate an exchange of very confidential information. Therefore, companies look for a tool that enables them to gather their members in virtual meetings in complete confidentiality or prefer to offer their members business trips rather than put sensitive information (trademarks, patents, ideas, business results etc) in danger.

Videoconferencing: not just the future, it’s the present
This game-changing technology is clearly capable of overcoming obstacles of time and space. It is become more widely adopted by many professions, including healthcare, and many others are finding new ways of using this option. If it can truly be embraced as a trusted medium, the possibilities when it will be truly available across every phone, device and tablet, are impressive.

A few facts:

  • Seventy percent of employees prefer videoconferencing over travelling to a physical meeting. Additionally, 75 percent of executives believe videoconferencing will supersede conference calls in the future.
  • The global market for videoconferencing has been projected to reach almost $3.6 billion in 2016.
  • Eighty-seven percent of executives below the age of 35 prefer to work in an environment that supports videoconferencing capabilities.
  • Employees’ attention spans are 50 percent longer on video calls in comparison to conference calls.

Finally, projections show that by next year, half of all video calls will originate from a mobile device. Moreover, the ultra-high-speed networks available today provide new opportunities for videoconferencing.

Sources:
http://www.networkworld.com/article/2989134/videoconferencing/how-a-healthcare-facility-demonstrates-the-untapped-potential-of-videoconferencing-telehealth.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/business/volvo-business/small-business-advice-ideas/11043168/video-conferencing-pros-cons.html
http://www.talcod.net/en/blog/disadvantages-and-advantages-videoconferencing-business-setting
http://www.teach-ict.com/gcse_new/communication/comm_methods/miniweb/pg16.htm
http://www.vdo360.com/the-future-of-video-conferencing/

Photo credit: cdu445 via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain License

Comments

  1. Eduard Tjart

    I think that despite the mentioned disadvantages videoconferencing is a great tool for internal communication and information exchange.

    However, my experience is that this technology needs quite some attention by the IT departments. As it “opens another door” to the IT system it requires some measures to ensure that connections are made in a secure way without creating additional risks to the IT systems.

    Also, when it comes to managing relationships with the external world (e.g. suppliers, customers, state bodies etc.) the direct human contact remains unrivaled. However, videoconferencing can still be a nice add-on from time to time.

  2. Delphine Luchetta

    Any job based on trust and close partnership like being a doctor or a coach for instance require physical presence for sure but I agree, videoconferences are a must!

  3. andrew

    Video conferencing is great technology that helps businesses and people to reduce travel costs, improve client interaction, increase productivity, etc. Tools like R-HUB desktop video conferencing servers, webex, gomeetnow, gotomeeting, etc. are widely used by businesses for conducting online video conferences.

  4. Acordis International Corp

    The major benefits of video conferencing that I found is time and space saving. On a whole it helps you save money and create more business opportunities for future. Keep sharing!!!

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