Video conferencing is a cheap, easy, and effective way of connecting — so why don't more of us use it? It delivers all the advantages of face-to-face meetings without the cost and lost time of bringing everyone to the same location at the same moment. Rather than relying on the disembodied voice of a phone call or audio presentation, or the all-too-easy-to-misunderstand contents of an email or document, video conferencing creates a unique, live connection that allows participants to communicate with spoken words; facial expressions and gestures; and graphics, images, videos, audio and written material, all in real time. That sounds like a winning combination, doesn't it?
However, despite these clear benefits, many of us still haven't embraced video conferencing. People often cite one of three concerns as reasons for opting out of this tool: I prefer in-person interactions, I don't have the right equipment or knowledge, or I hate how I look on camera. Do any of these sound like you? If so, read on, because given the benefits video conferencing can offer, it's time to reality check these beliefs.
Let's take them in reverse order:
You look marvelous! More than 50% of communication is nonverbal. Being able to see your face and gestures brings a human touch to any interaction, making it far more personal than a phone call, email, or text. More importantly, it allows you to give and receive nonverbal reactions that improve understanding on both sides. Treat video calls as you would a face-to-face meeting, and there's nothing to fear.
Do you have a desktop or laptop computer with a camera, speakers, and microphone? Congratulations, you have the right equipment! While Fortune 500 businesses may invest heavily in high-end, state-of-the-art video conferencing arrangements, you can probably get by with the basics. All you need to add is a solid, user-friendly video conferencing platform. Your institution may already have a preferred package, or you can find inexpensive and even free options online. Get recommendations from IT staff and colleagues or do an online search of a phrase such as "compare video conferencing software" to find the right platform for your needs.
Once you choose your platform, you don't need a lot of knowledge to make it work. You do, however, need to become familiar with its basic features so you can smoothly switch between speakers, mute and unmute yourself and participants, and use screen-sharing effectively. Being well prepared is a big part of video conferencing etiquette and allows the technology to enhance your meeting, rather than being a distraction. Test the software thoroughly on the same equipment and under the same types of conditions you'll have during the meeting, and make sure anyone assisting you in the meeting is at least as familiar with the platform as you are.
Tony Erwin, Blue Icon Advisor's principal consultant, agrees that you can't beat the ability of in-person meetings to establish genuine, human connections.
"There are times when video isn't fully effective. There are observations to be had when you're in the space with people that you don't get by video in some cases," Erwin said.
However, in his work helping financial aid professionals on campuses across the United States, Erwin often achieves the best of both worlds by holding an in-person meeting on campus early on and then maintaining regular contact via face-to-face video meetings when repeated visits would be impractical.
Given the expense of in-person meetings in terms of both time and cost, video conferencing still holds its own as "the next best thing to being there," Erwin said. With the versatile screen-sharing and whiteboard features now available on even some of the most basic platforms, you can easily offer people in far-flung areas, (such as on satellite campuses, different offices across campus, high schools, and more,) a clear, visual understanding of concepts and processes that would be difficult to express in any other way, while still exchanging important visual cues and making interpersonal connections.
Video conferencing makes live communication more effective and efficient at a distance. If you've ever watched how-to videos on YouTube, you're already well aware that if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is sometimes worth 10,000. Add to that the benefit of real-time interaction and cost effectiveness, and you have a communication tool you can't afford to ignore.
Publication Date: 1/23/2020