I work out of Madison, Wis., and one of my closest colleagues is based in Cleveland. We’re rarely in the same room together. But when we see each other at an event, we don’t go through the whole, “It’s been a while, how’ve you been?” routine. Instead, we just pick up the conversation we were having the day before.
The reason: During our entire work relationship, we’ve communicated via video.
With the rise of telework, much of business today is conducted via email or over the phone. But we lose something when we don’t see our colleagues and clients face-to-face.
Here are four business benefits of video collaboration tools.
1. Closer Relationships
Relationships are the key to success in business. But think of the best relationships in your personal life. Are they conducted entirely over the phone? Probably not, and your businesses relationships shouldn’t be, either. The quality of video collaboration tools has vastly increased in recent years, making the experience feel less like a “video phone call” and more like a personal interaction. This is especially important for organizations with a significant number of remote workers. Video collaboration tools make these employees feel like a real part of the team, rather than just a disembodied voice on a phone line.
2. Nonverbal Cues
According to some experts, less than half of the impact of a message comes from words and vocal cues such as tone and inflection. The rest is conveyed by nonverbal cues such as body language and eye contact. Being able to read someone’s nonverbal cues — and react to them appropriately — could make all the difference in a sales or customer service call. If you can’t see people smile or furrow their brow, it’s much more difficult to adjust your message to solve their problem or get them to “yes.”
3. Increased Engagement
When there are more than a handful of people on a conference call, some participants inevitably end up muting their line, staying silent for the entire conversation and catching up on their email (or maybe folding laundry, if they’re working at home). Video collaboration solutions encourage people to pay attention and engage in the same way they would during an on-site meeting.
4. Natural Conversations
Have you ever read a transcript of a conference call? There’s a lot of this:
“Who just joined?”
“Was that Sam speaking, or John?”
“Does anyone have anything to add?”
[Eight seconds of silence, followed by three people all talking at once.]
While voice calls tend to have their awkward moments, video collaboration tools allow conversations to find their natural rhythm. Participants are able to play off of each other, instead of guessing at when might be an appropriate time to make a point or ask a question. A number of video solutions have whiteboarding features that allow participants to draw with a stylus (as opposed to a mouse). Further, tools such as SpeakerTrack from Cisco Systems focus the meeting-room camera on whoever is actively speaking.
In short, video collaboration is the closest thing to being there other than actually being there. And that’s more important than many people realize.
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