Video conferencing technology crosses geographical boundaries and connects participants all over the world with the click of a button. Many collaboration sessions with peers are informal gatherings where different ideas and concepts are discussed. However, what is perceived as a normal hand gesture in one country may be completely offensive in another. Colleagues should be mindful of their hand gestures during international meetings and specifically avoid the gestures below that have multiple meanings.

A-Okay
In the US and UK this gestures is often used to signify things are “a-okay” or absolutely fine but in Japan it means money or coins. This can become quite confusing to your Japanese counterparts when they ask you a question and you respond with coins. In a few European countries, such as France, this gesture means ‘zero’ and by responding to an idea with it you are essentially saying their idea is useless which can be quite insulting. Far worse, in Brazil and Germany the term is downright vulgar. 

Thumbs Up
In Western cultures this is a sign of approval or a job well done or that you are good to go; however, in Latin America and the Middle East it is one of the biggest insults you can give. So when your Latin American colleague asks if you can hear him now, it’s best to respond verbally instead of simply giving the thumbs up sign. 

Stop
Meetings sometimes get out of control with multiple people talking at the same time. To get everyone’s attention the meeting leader may hold up his hand to signify stop; however, he will really be telling his Greek counterparts to go see the devil.   

V-Sign
Many people use this sign to refer to the number two but in the UK or Australia it is the equivalent of telling someone where to go. Be wary of using hand gestures to signify numbers to avoid offending colleagues and keep meetings on track. 

There are a lot of different cultures in the world and each has their own way of expressing feelings through body language. Gestures that may seem harmless can be deeply offensive to another culture so before meeting with international clients or colleagues it may behoove you to brush up on their culture to avoid any faux pas.

Video conferencing with anyone, from anywhere, on any device is becoming a major trend. Users love the flexibility of being able to join from their PC at home instead of trekking into the office conference room. Similarly, the ability to join a video call while taking the ferry back home or even an extremely important client meeting while on vacation not only makes employees more productive but helps contribute to a better work/life balance.

But can you really join a video conference from anywhere?

For personal use – absolutely; because no one really minds a choppy signal that fades in and out or the oddly dressed fellow in the background. The conversations are more casual and participants are simply so excited to actually “see” each other that the importance of high quality communications dissipates.

However, for business use, the answer is not really. The quality of communications plays a significant role in business video and a signal that fades in and out can be extremely frustrating. As a result, mobile video becomes a challenge in many business cases due to a lack of consistent internet quality.

In many public places, such as hotels and airports, the WiFi signal is unpredictable; resulting in poor quality and lack of a consistent experience. Furthermore, restricted 3G and 4G networks are inconsistent in their coverage (4G in some metropolitan areas, 3G in outlying area), making high quality video on the go extremely difficult.

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use mobile video ever again; it simply means be careful. Be wary of joining a video meeting from a new location and make a few test calls before committing to join a business meeting over video. If the quality is inconsistent, perhaps it’s better to join the call over audio.

You can pay people to do pretty much anything nowadays; from landscaping and housekeeping to filing your taxes and even interviewing.

Wait, interviewing?  How is that even possible?

Think about it, the first round of interviews are usually done over the telephone by the recruiting or HR team.  The whole purpose is to weed out candidates so it’s typically very difficult to differentiate yourself. But, candidates know they must find a way in order to land that elusive face-to-face interview where they can win the job with their stunning personality and great interpersonal skills.

To gain an initial advantage, some candidates are paying imposters to perform the preliminary phone interview.  These people answer initial questions and explain “their” background based on the candidate’s resume.  Since they typically have significant interview experience, they are extremely polished with their answers and know how to differentiate themselves.  Unfortunately, due to sheer volume, it is extremely difficult to determine if a second round candidate is the same candidate that was on the phone.

How can this be prevented?

Well for starters, companies can begin replacing the initial phone interview with video interviews; because let’s face it, it’s pretty obvious when the candidate who shows up looks completely different from the person originally interviewed.  Cloud technology and desktop video applications not only make it possible but extremely easy to interview candidates over video.  Interoperability is a thing of the past; organizations can connect with candidates anytime, anywhere, using any combination of devices.

If video simply isn’t possible, ask the interviewee a few questions that cannot be obtained by looking at their resume.  Questions should focus on specific instances; such as a time they used their technical skills to complete a difficult project.  Not only are specific situations more difficult to forge answers to; they can easily be referenced and validated during the second interview.

If all else fails, record each phone interview and then do a voice comparison when the candidate comes to interview in person.  Although, it’s hard to imagine that option would be simpler than switching to video…but hey crazier things have happened!

It seems like every day there are new headlines in the telecommunications industry about unified communications, the latest acquisition, release or new cloud service. The term “unified communications” has been around for a long time; but it means different things to different people – just take a look at some major software companies or hardware manufacturers.

Microsoft has taken its Office Communications Server, transformed it into Lync, and gained significant mind and market share with the product. In addition, they have worked closely with Polycom to integrate video conferencing into the Lync ecosystem. Cisco, on the other hand, has significantly invested in Jabber which has expanded the definition of UC, as well as, telepresence.

Unfortunately, there have been some roadblocks that prevent true ubiquity of UC solutions throughout enterprise organizations.

A recent study from CompTia (an IT industry association) took a look at many of these topics. From an adoption perspective, respondents to the survey reported:

  • - Challenges in integrating UC tools with existing technology
    - Lack of ability to incorporate mobility, social networking, collaboration and video conferencing
    - Difficulty calculating a return on investment

The interesting thing about all of these challenges is that they can be easily solved through integrated cloud services. How so? Let’s take a look at each one individually.

Challenges in integrating UC tools with existing technology:
When organizations look to implement a UC solution; integrating the server architecture, managing operating systems, and maintaining new equipment can be extremely challenging. These problems; however, can be virtually eliminated by hosting a UC solution in the cloud.  With the cloud, comes an experienced team of professionals who manage the technology; alleviating many of the technical pressures. Organizations can then focus on integrating the technology into their existing environment; whether it is defining set processes to use the tools or driving a cultural change within the company to encourage adoption. The cloud also allows companies achieve the benefits of UC almost immediately with practically none of the frustration.

Lack of ability to incorporate mobility, social networking, collaboration and video conferencing:
Incorporating these technologies comes down to one thing – interoperability. Microsoft and Polycom have addressed this by linking their technologies to allow UC clients to participate in video conferences with enterprise systems; and Cisco has integrated video into Jabber to communicate to the rest of its portfolio. Connecting to consumer solutions (Skype, Google Talk); however, require cloud services which create “meet me” conference rooms in the cloud and can connect any video platform, application or appliance effortlessly.

Difficult calculating a return on investment:
As with any collaboration tool out there, it can be difficult to truly understand the cost savings/ROI/etc. In order to do so, organizations must assess the specific goals of a UC deployment. For example, is it about travel cost reduction or improved productivity? Many these benefits are hard savings that can be easily tracked and reported with a cloud service. By connecting travel to a video management system, organizations can easily see the trips that were replaced by video which translates into cost savings and increased productivity.

The bottom line is that cloud service providers can help an organization review their UC needs and challenges then deploy scalable services to make adoption seamless and ROI attainment clear.

At any given time there are several different languages being spoken in an emergency room.  Spouses, children, friends or relatives are usually there to interpret; but what happens when an interpreter is not immediately available?

Calling one over audio is an option; however, it can get extremely confusing handing phones back and forth while a remote third-party translates.  For the hearing impaired, Video Relay Services are an option; however, according to FCC regulations they are designated for telephone calls only and cannot be used when both hearing and hearing impaired parties are in the same room. 

Enter Video Remote Interpreting (VRI); a growing field that bridges the communication gap by translating spoken words into American Sign and other languages over video. An offsite interpreter hears the voices of those speaking and then relays the message into the camera which the other participant can hear or view on their screen. 

These services are extremely useful in hospital emergency rooms where quick communication between patients and caregivers is essential.  In smaller cities it can take a significant amount of time for an interpreter to arrive onsite; however, with VRI doctors and nurses can simply connect to a remote interpreter for instantaneous communication. 

A quick video from Paras and Associates explains how video is not only revolutionizing Telemedicine by providing access to medical specialists, but by providing immediate access to an interpreter.