The emergence of many new collaborative technologies within both our personal and professional lives means that most businesses will have a disparate tool set available to communicate with. Bring-Your-Own-Device policies and personal preferences play havoc with IT departments who are trying to bring about a commonality to the way in which employees communicate. Unless there is a rip and replace of technology combined with a knowledge that their clients and partners can use it, the use of unified communications, particularly video conferencing, can be fraught with user and call quality issues.
The reality is that even with huge advances in the way in which we communicate, the majority of remote business meetings are still carried out using a traditional audio conferencing service.
Why is this?
The key to understanding why traditional audio conferencing remains an essential component in any business is that most conversations do not require you to see the other person, they do not require you to share documents or screens, there is just a simple requirement to discuss, share thoughts and get answers quickly. Of course, video conferencing and screen sharing is invaluable to certain professions but there are still many more instances where a simple conversation is all that is required.
High-value business leaders discussing significant issues do not want to be bogged down with ensuring participants are in front of a screen, they do not want an overly complicated, time consuming log-in, or the worry of looking professional in front of a camera whilst navigating a myriad of in-meeting features. In truth, feature rich collaboration tools are overly complicated and pose too many risks versus the benefits. Few want to be faced with a product that requires training, that may not work or pass through a client’s firewall or worse still make them look incompetent during the meeting.
Mobility raises several convenience issues, and whilst there may be the odd occasion of a phone not working or no signal being available, it is an entirely different scenario to that of hunting for internet access and having enough bandwidth to screen share or video conference when not at your usual desk. For most people, walking and talking is a common theme, and tele-conferencing is still the only reliable method of successful communication on the move, particularly when you are involving internationally based participants.
- Audio Quality
Reliability of audio quality is key to a successful remote meeting. When voices cannot be heard or dip in and out, it has an impact on productivity and professionalism. Packet loss is the most common problem when using VoIP for audio and video conferencing. It usually occurs due to network congestion when there is not enough available bandwidth. Thus, you are likely to only hear parts of a conversation and video will be sporadic. When communicating with a client or wanting to discuss important issues, most businesses fall back on traditional audio conferencing lines that are far less likely to break the conversation.
Do you feel comfortable seeing your face on a screen when presenting to your clients? If you are comfortable with it, who has witnessed others squirm? I would say 75% of the video conferences that I have been on, people are generally happy to collaborate on a document but disable their webcam; they are just not comfortable sharing their face on screen. I think this point is particularly relevant in the UK, where our more reserved culture has difficulty with it. No doubt over time, those who are growing up with apps such as SnapChat and FaceTime will be part of a cultural shift, but in a business environment we need to accommodate those that are not ready for screen stardom.
I am not saying there isn’t a place for video conferencing because it can be brilliant. At Speakserve we regularly use a popular web conference tool for product demonstrations and introductory client meetings. But what I witness is a certain level of anxiety and preparation that begins 10-15 minutes before the call is due, a worry that the client will know what is required and their system will allow a trouble-free log-in, the shutting down of other applications that might accidentally be shown when flicking between screens, moving to a seat where the lighting is good, making sure there is nobody in the background, a quick preen of hair and or make up, and so on. Once the conference is up and running, seeing another face immediately helps relationship building but also encourages a certain level of non-work related chat. Whilst there is a time saving compared to face to face meetings, the productivity levels compared to audio conferencing are low. And I imagine this is why so many businesses are still dragging their heels with adoption.
Audio conferencing is cheaper than it has ever been. Whilst premium rate numbers
Call out the most important elements of the visual. Include “Tweet this!” links that mention key points and vital takeaways from your visual.
We are excited about the future, the possibilities with unified communication tools and advancements leading to a more collaborative working environment. But we are not ready to dismiss the audio conference – a reliable, resilient commodity, no matter where you are in the world, or which device you are using to make the call. We continue to perfect the simplest form of collaboration and encourage you to re-assess your conferencing provision to ensure you are not missing out on the cheapest and easiest way to bring people together whilst reducing the risk of anything going wrong.
If you require help to navigate your way through choosing the most appropriate collaboration tools for your business, get in touch.
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