“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” - Lee Iacocca

The Overlooked Benefit of Video

As a manager in the marketing department I have the opportunity to oversee a team of people who are all dedicated to helping push the power of video and its advantages across several industries.

Part of the marketing process includes coordinating campaigns and messaging across multiple locations. Creative ideas also need to continuously flow back and forth.  As a result, I am on video with several of my remote team members multiple times during the day.

What struck me this week is that I don’t even realize that I am speaking to someone who is thousands of miles away.

The power of video has made it possible to bring the entire marketing team together (located across three time zones and four states) and brainstorm ideas as if they were all sitting right next to me.  I can’t count the number of times a light bulb has gone off for me or a member of the team and I’ve seen that “AH HA” moment right in front of me, in glorious HD video.

It is very easy to get lost in the technology and its practical use cases; such as capturing a remote deposition, monitoring a manufacturing line, or managing a sales team. But what we cannot forget is the power of video to unify people and ideas.  When a team is able to come together and share their ideas there comes a point when a great idea or thought can take on a life of its own.  The idea itself becomes something even more powerful when everyone “gets it.”

Calculating the financial ROI of a VC/UC investment is certainly important. But when thinking about what you currently get out of your video conferencing investment or what you could get out of the technology, do not forget to include the human factor. This technology can break down barriers for your remote teams and allow them to work as a collective unit, in a way you never thought possible.

There has been significant buzz around a recent Forbes article about the death of telepresence and Cisco’s  response. One side claims that telepresence is a dying breed while the other claims it is alive and well. So who is right?

Both of them.

Yes, there are many new entrants that are disrupting the visual communications space. These companies are making video more accessible by allowing organizations who previously couldn’t afford the technology the opportunity to video conference.  Furthermore, the explosion of cloud services and mobile video is extending the reach of visual collaboration while overcoming interoperability barriers.  The market is ever growing and organizations will continue to invest in these technologies at a rapid rate.

These solutions will not replace the need for Telepresence though.

While the quality of desktop, mobile and cloud solutions are improving; they pale in comparison to a truly immersive experience.  C-Level strategy meetings are far more likely to demand the quality and lifelike experience immersive systems offer.  In fact, saying that the executives of a multi-billion dollar corporation will opt for a lower quality but cost effective video solution is like saying they will choose to drive a Pinto because it’s more cost effective than a Mercedes-Benz.  Unfortunately, the current price tag for immersive solutions is typically only justified for executives; plus, there are only so many rooms a company can dedicate to telepresence.  This creates a significantly limited market and contributes to the declining sales of telepresence systems.

Experienced audio visual integrators; however, can overcome these limitations and expand the market for telepresence.  Advanced integrators can customize solutions to create an immersive feeling using standard HD video systems for a fraction of the cost.  Additionally, elite AV integrators can modify immersive and standard systems to expand both the range of rooms and applications telepresence can work in; allowing companies to design a solution that best fits their needs.

What does the future look like then?

While there will still be a place for telepresence; the shift towards software based systems will continue at an accelerated pace.  Many organizations will begin adopting UC and cloud platforms over standards-based enterprise systems due to their user friendly, cost effective and scalable collaboration capabilities. Polycom and Cisco will need to continue to drive innovation around UC solutions to remain competitive in this space. Integrated UC solutions, with interactive document sharing, will offer far more value to organizations than stand-alone desktop video solutions.

The bottom line is this:

Telepresence systems will continue to have their place in the C-suite and for meetings where the highest audio visual quality and seamless collaboration are mission critical.  However, UC and mobile video solutions will put the future of business collaboration into the hands of every user organization-wide ushering in a new era of connected workforce.

Using Video to Improve Work/Life Balance on the Road

You’re sitting in your hotel room and sigh: another missed baseball game. You start thinking of all the defining moments you’ve missed in your child’s life.  From the first words, to the first day of school, to a straight A’s report card; you can’t help but feel you’re missing out. 

Even though travel has been reduced through visual collaboration solutions at work; you still travel frequently because, let’s face it, you can’t do everything over video. Sometimes a firm handshake is necessary to close a deal or unique technical expertise requires your presence.  How can you stay involved in your personal life without sacrificing your job? 

Video Conferencing. 

You use it frequently to conduct business with colleagues, clients and partners so why not use it to stay involved in your children’s lives? Instead of calling home every night, video home.  Read a bed time story, watch the baseball game in real time, or even express your disappointment on a bad choice, the possibilities are endless! With video, you no longer have to forfeit your personal life in the name of business or see the disappointed looks when you leave for yet another business trip. 

Face time is just as important in strengthening personal relationships as it is in developing business relationships. As the saying goes, eyes are the gateway to the soul.  It’s nearly impossible to establish an emotional connection or tell what someone is thinking without looking someone in the eyes. Phone calls and text messages while traveling just don’t cut it anymore; buy a webcam or an iPad and check in with family while on the road. 

Then, the next time you are traveling, you can sit around the dinner table, hear about your spouse’s day and even kiss your children goodnight…virtually.

There are several components that go into designing an optimal collaboration: space, displays, speakers, microphones, video switching, control systems, the list goes on. But what about the lighting; how does it fit into the mix? Believe it or not, room lighting plays a dramatic role in the image quality being displayed to remote conference participants.

Amount of Light:

Remember, there is such a thing as too much light. Meeting participants do not want to feel like they stepped into an operating room any more than stepping into a romantic restaurant. In addition to being uncomfortable for local participants, too much light can leave remote participants communicating with washed out, ghost-like figures. Conversely, not enough light can cause dark shadows and possibly distorted images for remote viewers. Finding the perfect balance of lights is imperative for displaying crisp, clear images over video.

Direct vs. Indirect Light:

Simply put, direct lighting is where camera can see a hotspot or the light causes sharp shadows or highlights, is directed toward the participants. Indirect lighting will fill or flood the space with light, prevents excessive brightness or contrast and prevents casting shadows on the participants. Indirect lighting is often configured with reflectors that direct the light toward participants faces creating a more natural appearance by defining facial features.

While indirect lighting simulates a more natural view, it can be problematic when projected displays are used in the video conferencing environment as it may put too much light on the display if not configured correctly. In these instances more controlled, direct lighting fixtures should be used.

Other Tips:

  1. All lamps should be changed at the same time for even light color distribution and to maintain consistency
  2. Down can lighting should be avoided as it causes shadows on participants’ faces.
  3. Recessed lighting on walls within camera view can help differentiate between the participant and the background.
  4. Use neutral non-white wall colors, such as light blues or grays, with a satin or flat finish to disperse the light evenly.
  5. If there are windows in the background use vertical blinds over horizontal blinds as they have a lesser effect on the transmitted camera image.

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

Related Articles:
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Top 5 Conference Room Considerations

“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

There are several applications for video conferencing across different industries; manufacturing, healthcare and retail to name a few. There is one use case, however, that is universal throughout any organization, in any industry. 

The need to motivate your team. 

With so many pressures across the organization, it can be difficult to find the time to provide the motivation that your employees need.  A small initiative can help inspire a team to work through a tough project while a large, company-wide initiative can help build camaraderie.   Additionally, it can be difficult for organizations with several locations and remote workers to maintain team spirit and to motivate the business as one unit.

How can video help?  Think about these creative uses to help inspire your team:

  1. Happy Halloween! – Connect all of your remote sites via video and have a costume contest.  Each participant can “model” their costume and employees can vote for their favorite.  It’s a lot of fun and gives people the opportunity to poke fun at each other. What can be more motivating than a company that gives its employees the opportunity to have some fun at work?
  2. Kudos – At the end of a particularly successful quarter, the President/CEO can record a message to congratulate employees and update everyone on the latest developments across the organization.  A recorded message is a great practice for the end of each quarter as knowledge about how the company is doing can be motivating for employees.
  3. Virtual Water Cooler – It can be challenging for employees who do not work in the office to feel part of the team and company.  Setup a video system in the cafeteria near a water cooler and keep it connected to other locations.  Now people can have the same ad-hoc conversations about family, their weekends, etc. over video.  This type of office camaraderie can go a long way!
  4. Holiday Party – Many organizations have holiday parties around the winter season and, for the most part, this party occurs near headquarters.  But what about those who work in other locations and cannot attend?  Bring a video system to the party and keep it running the whole night.  Those on the remote side can chat with the party goers and even rock along to Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi!

Motivation cannot be measured.  However, utilizing video to make everyone feel a part of the team will result in a measurable gain in productivity and help your employees perform at the highest level possible.