It’s finally here, the Capstone class that completes the last semester of my MBA. In it, we break up into teams and play a computer simulated game where we compete against each other in a mock business world. At the beginning of the class our professor said, “I would suggest meeting in person, teams that meet over video historically haven’t done very well.”

This slightly upset me since I work at a video company and truly believe that teams meeting over video can be just as effective as teams meeting in person. I thought to myself, challenge accepted, and set out to prove my professor wrong.

Every Thursday night my team meets over video to review the previous quarter’s results and submit our sales/marketing, operations and financial decisions for the next quarter. Granted I have an unfair advantage over the rest of the teams since I have access to an interoperable cloud meeting room which allows us to join over different platforms. I use Cisco Jabber, our “CFO” uses Skype and our “COO,” who does not have a webcam, simply uses her browser.

During the meeting, I share my screen so the team can easily view the supporting data, follow along and focus on what decisions we need to make. We all take turns sharing our thoughts and opinions and, since it’s harder to interrupt over video, raise our finger to signal we would like to speak next. After each set of decisions are entered, we review to ensure the numbers are correct and then submit them.

It’s been four weeks since we started and, not only are we in first place, our stock price is more than double that of our closest competitor. Obviously a lot can change in the remaining weeks; all it takes is one bad decision to knock us out of position. Even so, I can’t help feel victorious in proving my professor wrong.

I simply love video and all of its uses. Last semester, one of my professors had to cancel class due to a business trip. Instead, he sent us the PowerPoint slides with audio clips to deliver that week’s lecture. It was the absolute, most boring hour of my life and nearly impossible to stay focused. I had to listen to each audio clip at least twice because my mind kept wandering.

Looking back, I wish we could have had the class over video. We all could have joined in a cloud meeting room and the professor could have delivered his lecture while we followed along with the PowerPoint slides. It’s amazing how easily video can bring together students and enhance the learning experience; I know I would have retained a lot more out of that class session.

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Technology can be quite fickle; it’s amazing and life-saving when it works but frustrating and downright annoying when it doesn’t. Whether the unit isn’t powering on, sound isn’t coming out of the speakers or the display is flashing some cryptic message; a support technician is just a phone call away to troubleshoot and diagnose the issue.

The day of a help desk technician usually starts with a cup of coffee and a review of the ticketing queue. First up, are any new tickets that have been submitted and a quick review of the issues customers are having. Then, a review of previously open tickets and any action immediate items that need to be completed. For example, has tracking information been received and a replacement part been shipped out from the manufacturer? If so, details of when to except the shipment will be forwarded to the customer.

After any high priority issues have been addressed, it is time to outline a schedule for the day’s tasks. This includes initial troubleshooting for customers who have recently opened a ticket, providing status updates for previously opened tickets, as well as, scheduling test calls, coordinating onsite visits and partnering with manufacturers. Of course, the day doesn’t always go as planned since support calls come in throughout the day and require immediate attention.

During initial troubleshooting there are a few key items to check; while they may seem obvious they’re often overlooked. First, is the system plugged in and turned on. The cleaning crew could have easily knocked the plug out of the wall or an inexperienced video user could have turned the codec off not knowing any better. Second, shut down the system completely and then reboot. Many technical issues; from computers to smartphones to video conferencing equipment, can be resolved by a simple reboot. Sometimes a system just needs to reload its operating system.

If the technical issue is more advanced, a video test call may be scheduled to obtain more information about the issue. These calls help identify the issue by isolating the problem. For example, Vincent Carroll, Technical Support Representative, recalls a particular instance where a customer was reporting an echo in the room. During the video test call, he asked the customer to walk around the room to identify where the echo was coming from. It turns out that someone had turned up the speakers on the display in addition to the ceiling speakers creating the echo. The customer simply muted the display speakers and the echo was eliminated.

As with any technology, video conferencing and audio visual implementations need to be properly supported and maintained. It is important to work with a provider who has the expertise and resources to provide needed support no matter the day, time, or situation that occurs. The help desk technician is the first line of defense to ensure the ongoing successful usage of collaboration technology.

Last week Telework Exchange released “Fly Me to Your Room: Government Video Conferencing Collaboration Report.” This report outlined the benefits of video conferencing and telecommuting that can be realized by the federal government. In the report, the authors interviewed 128 Federal employees in an attempt to understand the value of video within the government.

As a prelude to this report, President Obama issued Executive Order 13589 in November of last year that promoted “efficient spending” and one of the key areas mention was Government travel. What’s truly amazing about this is that the federal government spent $15 billion on travel in 2011. So clearly, reducing travel spend is of top priority!

From the executive order:

“To ensure efficient travel spending, agencies are encouraged to devise strategic alternatives to Government travel, including local or technological alternatives, such as teleconferencing and video conferencing.”

In addition to the potential travel costs savings, the report reveals time savings and productivity time recovered. Respondents reported that video conferencing saves them an average of 3.5 hours of work time a week. In addition, “if just half of Federal government works used video conferencing, the government could save $8 billion annually in productivity costs.”

The numbers are truly astounding. While the government is a huge bureaucracy, even the smallest of organizations can realize a savings when implementing video conferencing.

To read the entire report, click here.

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The Traveler’s Guide to Video Conferencing – Webinar Recording

We’ve all been there, in that meeting that just seems to drag. You can’t help but look at your phone and think of all the better things you could be doing with your time. The longer you sit, the most frustrated you become as people get off topic and nothing actually seems to get accomplished. Instead of getting annoyed, stop and think, is this dreadful meeting actually your fault?

While your initial response might be absolutely not, the more you think about it there’s a slight possibility. Here’s how:

You Assume All Meetings Are a Waste of Time
If you go into a meeting assuming it will be a waste of time, it most likely will be. Negativity can not only affect your attitude but the attitudes of everyone else around you. Drumming your fingers, fidgeting, sighing and constantly checking your phone or tablet can make even the most patient participant anxious. Before you go into a meeting, take a deep breath and clear out any preconceived notions of a dreadful meeting. The power of positive can have a dramatic effect on productivity.

You Accept Every Meeting Invite
Part of the reason people think all meetings are a waste of time is because they accept every meeting invite regardless of whether or not they can provide value. As a result, the meeting fails to keep their interest and their mind starts wandering to everything else they could be doing. This leads to the negative and anxious attitude that can poison even the best meeting. Prior to accepting a meeting invite, think about whether or not you can provide valuable insight on the topic being discussed. If not, politely recuse yourself.

You Have Video But Don’t Use It
It’s so easy, and tempting, to put yourself on mute and start multitasking on an audio call. However, full engagement is critical to meeting success as it allows you to provide valuable thoughts and insights. Following along on the sidelines may lead you to miss key opportunities to contribute. Video conferencing forces you to focus on the matters at hand which can lead to enhanced creativity and quicker decisions.

You Don’t Create an Agenda
Meetings are notorious for getting off track. One thing leads to another and the next think you know the meeting is over and not a single item got accomplished. If you are leading a meeting, take fifteen minutes to put together an agenda of what needs to be discussed and what decisions need to be made. Then, if the meeting starts to get off track you can direct discussion back to the matters at hand.

You Get Meeting Crazy
Contrary to popular belief; a meeting does not need to be scheduled for every single decision or update. Save meetings for when discussion is absolutely critical; such as brainstorming or training sessions. If you simply need a quick vote on option A or option B; or want to send/receive a status update, email works just as well.

So the next time you’re bored to tears in a meeting, think about all the things you could have done differently to make the meeting more successful.

Video is making its way through organizations large and small as it becomes easier and more effective to use. The proliferation of tablets, smartphones and mobile video applications are allowing end users to connect from anywhere they have a Wi-Fi connection. The increased demand, however, is putting significant pressure on Wi-Fi networks. How can organizations make sure their network is video ready?

Estimate Demand
The majority of video users within an office location will connect to video via their PC or a room system if available. However, some users may opt to video conference on their tablet; either because a desktop video application continues to crash their PC or they need access to their computer screen while on video. It is important to have a grasp on the percentage of users who use video on their tablets in addition to their call concurrency.

Proper Infrastructure in Place
Video conferencing can place a strain on Wi-Fi networks; therefore, organizations should ensure they have the necessary infrastructure elements and access points. Most Wi-Fi networks were not designed with mobile video in mind; resulting in latency and packet loss if the demand for mobile video exceeds network capacity. Organizations should put policies in place to limit the use of Wi-Fi or limit per-call bandwidth. For example, dual desktop computer screens allow managers to view information on their computer while still using video on their PC.

Control Video Traffic
As video traffic continues to grow on your Wi-Fi network, it is important to employ devices that allow for segregation of this traffic (via Quality of Service – QoS) controls. This is incredibly important as video is bandwidth intensive and could potentially cause serious slowdowns within your infrastructure, potentially interrupting mission critical applications running wirelessly.

Don’t Open the Floodgates
With so many devices being introduced, employees will want to make use of every kind of video chat imaginable. Using firewalls to help block some of the unwanted services will be key. As an example, do you want employees using Facetime to communicate with their friends all day long? Blocking that activity can help mitigate strain on the network.

Clearly there is much to consider with your wireless network and video conferencing. The items above are a good start. Constantly monitoring and performance tweaking will be essentially to ensure that the entire operation is not brought to its knees by video traffic.