In a Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) talk given last year, Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor revealed that powerful changes in our body chemistry are triggered by adopting certain poses when we speak to others. If this is the affect that our own body language has on ourselves – just think of what it can tell our friends and colleagues.
In fact, it is said that two-thirds of our communications with others are non-verbal. It’s not just the way we stand or fold our arms that we’re talking about here; it’s also the more subtle signals that we pick up on such as a blink or a scratch.
This is why telephone conference calls are often so stressful, particularly if they involve colleagues or clients from around the world. It’s almost impossible to tell what fellow participants are thinking – whether they are smiling as they speak, for example. As a result, we are unable to adjust our mood and language, as we would do if they were in the same room. There is also the potential for misinterpretation when participants are speaking in a language other than their native tongue.
Yet, of course telephone conference calls are a convenient, affordable and environmentally responsible way of holding multi-site meetings. With the rise in globalisation and the increasing number of mergers and acquisitions over the past decade, many companies are coping with a fragmented and disparate workforce. Telephone conference calls are often the only way to work across a company or with customers around the globe.
The real challenges arise, when businesses are not just trying to communicate, but also to collaborate, on a day-to-day basis. There’s a real need to present a unified front, with colleagues based in different locations in order to build a strong brand.
So, why not choose video conferencing? The use of video would address issues around body language and visual signals and help eliminate the potential for confusion. But for many companies this is something they tried a few years ago, only to find the equipment was difficult and expensive to use and maintain. In fact, according to Gartner, almost 90% of video conferencing facilities bought a few years ago now sit unused. That’s an awful lot of redundant screens, representing thousands of pounds of investment sitting in a remote boardroom or store room,
Even when they were in use, video calls often only happened once or twice a month and usually they were seen as a special event However, now as we’ve become accustomed to applications such as Skype and Facetime as consumers, we’re again recognising the value of being able to see as well as hear and to talk with others all over the world, when we need to, rather than just occasionally.
So have too many businesses dismissed video conferencing technology too easily? The fact that so many rushed to invest in these solutions demonstrates that there was a need – and there still is. However, the technology and the way it was delivered wasn’t yet ready for the mass market, at least not until around a decade ago with the arrival of fast, cost-effective Internet access.
Video communications today have evolved. The reduced cost of bandwidth and video hardware infrastructure, the introduction of telepresence and high definition (HD) systems and desktop and mobile video have brought a far more sophisticated communications experience within reach. These new solutions also offer better integration and interoperability across different hardware and software platforms.
In addition, the cloud and mobile services have changed the way many businesses buy and use technology. Recently there’s been increased demand for the provision of video communications as a managed service. With a cloud-based solution the cost model can be attractive, with a flat rate monthly fee and no additional ‘per call’ charges.
This makes budget planning more efficient – and also encourages use. Managed services providers will help businesses promote and increase user adoption so that video is used as a day-to-day process rather than just for important meetings. In fact some managed services providers can even help resurrect older video conferencing equipment by integrating the latest technology, revitalising the value from investments of a few years ago.
The more video communications are used, the better the collaboration between offices, partners and clients, decisions can be made faster and travel costs are reduced. The value of being able to see who you are talking to is almost impossible to measure, but is nonetheless far-reaching, with the potential to make an ultimate impact on brand and bottom line alike.