Fourth of July is almost here. Bring on the fireworks, the barbeques, and the fun! Before we celebrate though, let’s take a moment to say thanks to all the men and women who have fought to preserve our freedom.

In honor of our military, let’s take a look at the evolution of technology that has allowed troops to keep in touch with their families back home.

My (now) husband was Army Infantry and deployed with one of first units sent to Iraq - back when instant messaging was all the rage. I remember waking up at four o’clock in the morning so I could get thirty precious minutes chatting online with him. We would constantly say can you imagine life before IM?

Back in the days of Vietnam or World War II, soldiers had to depend on snail mail to keep in touch. I had a hard enough time waiting two to three days to hear from my husband; I can’t even imagine having to wait weeks let alone months!

But now, less than ten years later, I see all of these families who are able to stay in touch with their deployed loved ones over video. It’s simply amazing, these men and women are thousands of miles away; and yet they can still interact with their family as if they were sitting right next to them. Even if it’s only every few weeks, deployed parents are able to look into their children’s eyes, smile and reconnect. It’s such a dramatic difference from simple email or instant messaging and I must admit I get a tiny bit jealous at times. But, then I remember I have the luxury of seeing my husband every single night and at least I had IM capabilities when he was deployed.

At any rate, when I get home tonight I am going to put my flag out and fly it proudly. Then I’ll thank my veteran and every other member of the military who lost or put their life on the line to protect the rights that many of us take for granted. I hope all of you will do the same.  Happy Fourth of July!

As video conferencing continues to become ubiquitous in the business and consumer world, the entertainment industry has taken notice and continues to integrate the technology into the plots and characters of television shows and movies.  Here’s a look at some of the more popular instances of video conferencing appearing in our favorites!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
With the planet in peril once again, the Transformers must maintain communication with the command center of the NEST (Non-Biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty) team.  The Transformers are in the field with their human counterparts, meeting with national security advisors and heads of defense departments. The briefing is about the latest threat and how to address it. How do they meet? Via telepresence. There is no better way to see the power of video communication than to have Optimus Prime laying down the law 4 inches away from the camera!

NCIS
NCIS (Navy Criminal Investigation Service) is one of the most popular television series on the air today. The premise of the show is a team of Navy officers who investigates crimes within and related to the Navy. The show has its fill of quirky forensic specialists and one liners (what crime drama is complete without them)?  Video conferencing comes into play with the quirky forensic specialists.  In many cases they are able to connect to the field teams to review the evidence they have analyzed back in the lab and this helps guide the next moves of the men and woman investigating and interviewing.

24
24 has been off the air for a few years now but represents the first major appearance of telepresence in entertainment and Cisco went as far to promote its inclusion in several ads and promotions.  In the show, telepresence is used in several different instances. Throughout the entire series, the plot focused on the current sitting president.  In many occasions this president is isolated and must communicate with their cabinet and national security teams remotely. Telepresence provides the life-like communication needed to make decisions that could potentially save the country from utter doom!

Up In the Air
George Clooney hired to fire you? Ouch. In this movie Clooney flies around the country as a hired gun for organizations doing massive layoffs. George loves to travel and not deal with what’s going on with his life on the ground. Video conferencing plays a pivotal role in the plot as a young new hire attempts to replace the in-person firings of the entire company with an outsourced, video conferencing based approach. This threatens Clooney’s way of life but also makes him deal with the reality of his life. This is an application of video conferencing we hope never comes to be!

Clearly video in entertainment is ever growing, just as it is in real life!

With the rising popularity of video conferencing applications on mobile devices and desktop units, it is easy to forget that this technology once had the most appeal with c-level executives such as CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs. Video conferencing has transformed from an elite technology used mostly by corporations with big IT budgets to a ubiquitous communications tool that now reaches a large portion of the business and consumer markets. However, c-level executives are still a group that has much to gain from use of the technology and its implementation throughout their organizations.

When executives use video conferencing for meetings with staff members or clients they expect the calls to run flawlessly every time. They neither have the time to wait for issues to be fixed nor the patience to sit through troubleshooting. The only solution that is appropriate for c-levels is one that includes high-quality systems paired with a managed service that provides total monitoring of the people, processes, and technology that are required for video meetings to be successful every time.

Interestingly, while executives enjoy great benefits from using video conferencing including reduction in travel time, holding more meetings throughout the day, and the improved quality of interactions that comes from face-to-face collaboration, video also appeals to executives because of how the organization as a whole benefits from use of the technology. The following are some of the ways corporations benefit when c-level executives implement visual communication solutions company-wide:

Increased shareholder value: Good communication is the foundation of any successful company. Video conferencing provides the ability to hold instant, face-to-face meetings with colleagues or customers located across the globe.  A company that communicates well is more efficient, increases productivity and creates value for the shareholders.

Competitive advantages gained:  Video is one weapon in a company’s arsenal that adds instant competitive advantage. For example, video helps cross-functional teams get products to market faster thanks to higher-quality collaborative meetings that can take place more frequently. Video also gives   organizations an edge by improving customer call center interactions, facilitating board and management meetings, and uniting disparate team members at a moment’s notice.

Corporate culture enhanced: Employees that join companies today have vastly different expectations for the work environment than they did even a few years ago. Mobile devices, combined with the use of video collaboration, mean that team members can do their work from just about anywhere with an internet connection. Job flexibility, such as working from home, and the reduction in travel time and expenses not only add great appeal to a company but help meet corporate initiatives like going green.

While c-level executives have unique concerns and requirements for the use of video depending on their role in the company and the type of industry of which they are a part, all executives share two common goals: making the best use of their time each day and ensuring the company is earning revenue in the most efficient way possible. Video helps executives achieve these goals while gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

With so many organizations either using or implementing video conferencing, the technology is becoming ever-present. Whether an organization is implementing the highest quality immersive telepresence, or rolling out video across iPads and smartphones, someone at some point had to sell their boss on the value of video.

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation? Here are some tips to make it just a little bit easier to sell the power of video to your superiors.

Teamwork – Selling your boss on the value of video conferencing to connect disparate teams is crucial. Maybe you work with a sales person in Los Angeles, an engineer in Dallas, and a support specialist in Chicago. Connecting the team face-to-face will help make all of you more productive and foster better relationships. This type of increase in productivity will only help to increase the bottom line.

Travel Costs – This is an oldie, but goodie. There is no doubt that organizations save significant dollars on travel once video has been implemented. To make this process easier, see if you can get your hands on the company’s travel expenses from the last few months. If you can’t get that much data, look to your own expenses for travel. Take that number and calculate 25% to show the potential savings video can provide on travel. When presenting this to your boss, point out that 25% could be a conservative number.

Outsmart the Competition – With the rapid communication abilities of video, your company will be able to stay one (or maybe more!) steps ahead of the competition. Whether its responding to a customer issue in the shortest time possible or getting a product to market faster, this type of rapid response is only going to make your company and your boss look good!

Recruiting Top Talent – Remind your boss of the last time he recruited a new sales executive. It started with 10 phone interviews then four were brought in for face to face interviews. When the candidates showed up, none of them had the appearance or polish of a sales rep. It almost seemed like there was a different person on the phone! With video, the first interview can occur visually, making it easier to find the right candidate sooner.

There are many more ways to sell your boss. If you are in a particular niche industry (healthcare, legal) there are very specific use cases to present as well. But if you begin with the four points above, you will be well on your way to selling your boss.

Norm here. I use video on a daily basis and absolutely love it; although, I seem to make a lot of mistakes which can be rather embarrassing at times. Out of the goodness of my heart, I’m sharing some of these instances so you can avoid making the same mistakes. 

Yesterday, I was in the conference room for our monthly sales meeting. We were discussing the latest market trends when this new guy appears on the screen to give his thoughts. Now, not only did this guy have long blonde hair, he had his shirt unbuttoned a little too far if you know what I mean. 

So I lean over and whisper to Carl, who does this guy think he is Fabio? When I turn back, I saw a few people snickering and Dan (aka Fabio) had a really weird look on his face.

I thought to myself, could they have heard me? No way, they’re thousands of miles away and I was just whispering to Carl.  Maybe they read my lips? That seems highly unlikely – although Fabio is pretty distinct. 

Later that day, my manager calls me into his office to discuss my ‘inappropriate comment.’  Uh oh – busted. Turns out, microphones are super sensitive and can pick up even the slightest sound. Even though I was whispering, the microphone picked up my comments for every single person to hear. 

Note to self: Whispering is not really whispering on a video call.  

Anyway, the next day I called Dan over video to apologize for my behavior. I told him that sometimes I speak without really thinking and he was cool about it. He said perhaps I was just jealous because he could pull off the look and I couldn’t.  Right, that’s it.