Video has become a staple in both my professional and personal lives. I find it so much easier to have a conversation face-to-face and simply get annoyed when I have to pick up the phone. Unfortunately, I still meet a lot of people who just don’t seem to love video as much as I do. We’ve already discussed a few excuses in a previous post; including people can spy on me, I cannot multitask and video is creepy. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Video is too difficult to use
Half of the time I can hear the other person but not see them and the other half I can see them but not hear them. That’s assuming I connect of course which is maybe only about quarter of the time. On the off chance that I can connect smoothly, the video image keeps breaking up and I can barely hear my colleague let alone see them. Yes, we’ve all heard the woes of unfamiliar video users and if video equipment and networks are not set up properly these inconveniences are probably true.

However, in most instances video is as easy to use as the telephone. UC solutions such as Microsoft Lync and Cisco Jabber make video conferencing as easy as typing in a name and clicking connect. There is no need to look up or remember a phone number, let alone an IP address. Similarly, cloud based bridging services not only remove most interoperability barriers but allow enterprise video solutions to connect with consumer desktop and mobile solutions such as Skype and iPads.

I sit in a public area and have little privacy
Conversations over video can be quite public if you are using computer speakers. Not only can people hear what you’re saying, they can hear what your counterpart is saying removing every ounce of privacy. Not to mention we all have that one coworker who’s a little loud or a little nosy and can be rather distracting when on a video call.

Try substituting a headset or pair of headphones for your computer speakers. Not only will this keep the conversation slightly more private, it will reduce some of the background noise allowing your colleague to hear you better.

I don’t like the way I look on camera
I look too fat, too pale, too old, too young for that matter – the list goes on and on. Newsflash: no one likes the way they look on camera because we are overly critical of ourselves. I mean everyone hates how they sound over audio but that doesn’t keep them from making telephone calls does it? So why then does it keep them from video conferencing?

Besides, there are few little things you can do to enhance your appearance – starting with the position of the camera. Make sure it is not right in front of you or zoomed up all the way; the closer the camera is, the bigger your face looks. You don’t need to prepare for the nightly news but a little foundation and bronzer goes a long way. Finally, make sure the area around you is tidy, although if you want people looking at your mess rather than your face, this is the way to go.

Getting over the hurdle of being afraid or making excuses not to be on video can be challenging. But do it, because in the end the advantages of using it far outweigh any negative feelings you may have!

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Stop Being A Video-Phobe Part One

Every organization has its reasons for looking at video conferencing and the impact that the technology can have on the organization. If you have gone down that path or are planning to, you’ve likely identified some sort of gap or shortcoming in the way your business communicates either internally, externally, or both. Below are a couple of standout pain points that could be pointing you to a video investment.

Ballooning Travel Budget
The travel expense benefit is about as old as video technology itself, but it continues to be a very compelling benefit. If you review your travel numbers and consistently see travel expenses increasing it may be time to take a look at the specific nature of these trips and identify how some of them may be replaced with video. Many organizations (including IVCi clients) have reported savings of over six figures by cutting just one regular executive meeting a month. That’s huge! Those are the types of savings that can greatly enhance a firm’s bottom line and make stakeholders quite happy.

Teams are in a Silo
Collaboration across cross-functional teams can be critical to the success of an organization. If you find that different teams within the company are not working together or even communicating their projects, video may be the answer. If product development simply isn’t connecting with marketing and sales, how do they know the viability and potential market for the new product they are designing? Many may blame a lack of team cooperation on geographic diversity. While this may be the case, video conferencing solutions can easily connect these teams face-to-face to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

High Turnover of Talented Workers
Recruiting top talent is both time consuming and expensive. But, it’s even more expensive when those employees leave the company. Some of the top reasons employees leave include too much travel that negatively impacts their family life, a desire to work from home occasionally but not being permitted to, or remote employees who don’t feel connected to the organization. Video can address all of these issues while helping these employees complete their tasks in the most efficient manner.

Going Green Is Not Going Well
For the last several years companies have announced plans for green initiatives and some of the larger organizations have added reporting and metrics of success to their annual reports. But what happens when your announced green initiative is falling short? Video conferencing provides substantial green benefits including reducing your carbon footprint through less travel. Many manufacturers can provide a calculator that helps to determine that true reduction. Quantifiable numbers will go a long way in show the success of any green initiative.

The Competition is Always a Step Ahead
There is nothing more frustrating than having your competition beat you to the market with a new product, serve customers better, or outshine you in anyway. If you find that the competition always seems to be one step ahead, video could be part of the reason. Teams that utilize video are able to share information faster and make decisions quicker, resulting in reduced times to market for new products. In addition, organizations that have been able to leverage video in their direct customer communication will see better relationships and longer-term customer retention.

If you are seeing any of these red flags above and your company hasn’t looked at implementing video conferencing, the time may be now!

Additional Resources:
Video Conferencing Solutions

There are several different components that go into designing an optimal collaboration space: displays, video switching, control system, lighting, the list goes on. But what about the acoustics, how do you ensure both local and remote participants can hear each other clearly?  Believe it or not, there are actually several factors that affect the sound quality in a room.

Speaker and Microphone Placement:
Room design and they way participants actually use the space must be considered when designing audio pickup and coverage in a room. The style of meetings, along with furniture placement (tables/chairs/displays/etc.), allows a design engineer to determine the best type of microphone and final microphone placement. Most audio visual rooms now perform multiple roles; a single room can be used as boardroom in the morning, then a training room with remote participants in the afternoon. Therefore, microphones may be placed in the ceiling with a wireless lapel and handheld support. This allows multiple room configurations while keeping the technology in the background; allowing the meeting in each scenario to take precedence. Additionally, the speakers selected should allow for full and even coverage of the space; supporting audio from participants, DVDs or PCs.

Room Acoustics:
The acoustics of a room are determined by the room environment; such as room size and shape, ceiling height, surface materials (wall/floor/ceiling) and participant seating locations. The microphones, speakers and screen surfaces may also add a positive or negative acoustical impact into the room. Additionally, noise generated from an HVAC system must be taken into consideration when designing a collaboration room. A noise diffuser can be used to minimize air handler noise in the room.

Reverberation:
Sound reflections can be attributed to the shape of the space, as well as, surfaces located in the room. Hard surfaces, such as paneling, concrete, doors and whiteboards can reflect sounds creating echo and secondary audio throughout the room. Small adjustments to room shape or absorptive surface treatments placed in strategic locations, along with an echo-canceller, can help eliminate reverberation and reflection issues in some of the more difficult spaces.

Windows and Doors:
Background noise can be extremely distracting to both remote and local participants. Selecting windows and doors that minimize outside sounds can help keep participants focused and ensure clear audio is delivered to remote participants. Wall and ceiling structure should also be considered during construction, this will ensue that the meeting stays in the room and does not “leak” in to the next meeting room or the hallway. Additional ceiling insulation, double walls, or specific sound absorbing material can be installed for corporate privacy or high noise areas.

Learn more about creating an optimal collaboration environment from our Audio Visual Buyers Guide.

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Top 5 Conference Room Considerations

Each U.S. city and county is unique in its climate, population, and character. This diversity lends itself to innovative uses of technology by city governments that aim to improve life for its citizens. Metropolitan areas are using video conferencing solutions to create processes that are more efficient, and they are accomplishing this in ways that are as unique as the cities themselves.

Here is a snap shot of some of the ways video is being used in towns throughout the country:

New York, New York: OATH (the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings), is an independent agency that handles disciplinary cases for New York City. Its health tribunal deals with violations to the city’s health code and other laws affecting health. OATH’s main offices are located in Manhattan, so restaurant owners from outer boroughs who receive tickets for violations must travel to the city to have their cases heard. The agency’s commitment to providing fair and timely public hearings led it to seek a more convenient and accessible alternative to these hearings.

OATH opened a Staten Island office to better accommodate Staten Island residents. However, inspectors based in Manhattan still had to travel and were unable to attend if they were busy with other hearings, which resulted in the need to reschedule. Video conferencing technology was the key to making the new Staten Island location convenient for all participants; video was integrated into the hearing, connecting inspectors in Manhattan to a judge and respondent in Staten Island. Based on the success of its video system OATH is now looking to expand the use of video to agency locations in all five boroughs

San Antonio, Texas: The San Antonio Municipal Court offers video conferencing services from an Oak Ridge location to citizens who have received traffic tickets or notices of other violations. Live, interactive video conferences are held with the Judge. Those eligible to use video are those wishing to plead guilty or nolo contentre, choose not to be represented by an attorney, and are prepared to pay fees/fines as ordered by the judge.  “Video court” is offered on a first come, first serve arrangement; no prior scheduling is needed.

City of Orange, New Jersey:  After a suspect is arrested for an indictable offense, The City of Orange Municipal Court holds preliminary proceedings. Preliminary proceedings include arraignment and the setting of bail where appropriate. Video conferencing is now available for use in this arraignment process. When used in this manner, video conferencing creates a safer environment by removing the need to transport prisoners and saving tax payers money in the process.

Nashville, Tennessee: A bill in the final stages of debate in Nashville would allow local school board members of Knox County to attend meetings via video conference. This provision would provide greater flexibility to those board members who otherwise would not have been able to attend meetings because of the need to travel out of the county for work or family emergency. The use of video would allow board members to more easily do their jobs.

San Diego, California: The U.S. Department of the Interior is using video to cut down on its employees’ extensive travel. By increasing the number of meetings that are held over video, the government aims to save on travel costs and reduce its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the route between San Diego and Sacramento ranked as one of the 25 most frequently traveled cities by DOI workers; video is one tool that can create a more efficient process for local government workers to meet.

Kern County, California: Kern County is so large that it can take several hours to get from one area of Kern to another. Now, instead of traveling long distances to get legal questions answered, Kern residents can use the video conferencing system at the Kern County Law Library to speak with law librarians. The library installed a video system that is easy to use, reliable, and high quality to maximize the user’s experience. Based on the positive feedback it has received, the library is looking to expand its video conferencing capability.

Additional Resources:

Video Conferencing & Telepresence Solutions for State and Local Government

If there is one feature in the world of video conferencing technology that has undergone the most improvement over the years, it is the quality of video itself. We have gone from lower resolution images to life-like high definition and immersive telepresence experiences. It is fair to say that when properly configured with the right amount of bandwidth, the quality of video conferencing today is pretty amazing.

What continues to be more challenging is the reach of video conferencing and more specifically, the ability to easily connect to anyone you want. The term B2B refers to video calling between different organizations, but this can include individuals as well.

If you think about your cell phone, you dial the number of anyone you want to reach and simply connect. Unfortunately, video conferencing has not made it to that level of ease and connectivity. But why? Here are some of the hurdles holding video back from achieving total reach, and some solutions.

Network
To achieve the highest level of video conferencing quality, many organizations choose to implement a private network dedicated to video conferencing. The advantage of this is that video is separate from the rest of the organization’s network traffic, ensuring the highest level of picture and sound quality. In addition, many organizations will place their immersive telepresence systems on a network exchange from a telecom or other cloud services provider which provides connectivity to others on the same exchange. Again, the highest level of video and audio quality is available, but the challenge with this setup is that users can typically only talk to other video and telepresence systems on the same network. So if you are on a private network of your own and a partner organization is on a different telecom network exchange, you’re out of luck!

Security
This could be placed under the network category, but security is also a major factor preventing true B2B calling. For organizations that implement video conferencing, firewalls are incredibly important for protecting internal applications and data. Firewalls, however, can cause major issues with video conferencing. Fortunately, the technology offered from many of the video conferencing manufacturers provides the ability to get around this roadblock. Products that enable firewall traversal have made B2B video a little easier to achieve, assuming your network has connections to the public internet.

Mobility
With the introduction of camera equipped mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, video conferencing has an entirely new audience. The problem that presents itself is the ability to get these mobile users connected in a standard B2B conference. With so many users taking advantage of these devices, it is incredibly important to make these connections possible. Fortunately, a number of cloud services have been brought to market to address this issue.

Process & Expertise
Perhaps even more challenging than the technology and network issues of B2B video conferencing are the issues of process and expertise. Even if networks are able to connect to one another and firewalls are properly configured, there are still challenges on how to physically dial another system, how to ensure audio and video flow seamlessly, and how to bring mobile devices into the loop. On top of all of these challenges, how do you determine who is on what exchange, who you need to talk to for support on connecting those exchanges, and how do you make sure your iPad is connected as well? Organizations must build processes and have the expertise to execute on these challenges. This can be built internally or outsourced to a managed service provider.

There are many challenges to B2B calling, but the technology is constantly evolving and there is hardly a day without a new announcement bringing new innovation to connecting disparate technology and networks. With the pace of this change it’s only a matter of time before true B2B video calling is ubiquitous.