Video conferencing has the powerful ability to put you in any location without leaving your office. I have clients scattered throughout the US, as well as business partners in different cities. I use video conferencing to collaborate with my business partners and suppliers. I have also leveraged video conferencing to deliver online webinar content to my customers on a variety of topics.
How Does it Work
A video conference lets you have a face-to-face meeting from the comfort of your own desk. It is done through the Internet with a web-based meeting program. For face-to-face conferencing, each participant needs a video camera and microphone. Many computers already have these built in.
The same technology lets you host online webinars, with or without a visual component. Say, for example, you want to host an information session for your clients about upgrades to a product. You can use an on-line meeting program to notify your participants. They will then use their web browser to connect at a given time to attend the meeting. People can join in from all over the country, or globe.
Why are People Using it?
Saving Money – Many companies, big and small are embracing video conferencing as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. The last company I worked at had 185 offices in the US. Twice a year all office managers would fly to the corporate headquarters in the Midwest. Think about the costs that the company incurred. From travel time, to airfare and hotel stays, I would estimate the cost for each of these meetings was well over $100,000 each.
As a cost saving measure, one of the meetings became a webinar-format meeting. The participants loved it. They were able to avoid the travel and didn’t have to be away from their families overnight. However, they still received the information from the company president and hand an opportunity to ask questions. Plus the company saved a bundle.
- More Sustainable - Many companies, large and small, have started green initiatives to operate their company in a more sustainable manner. Using video conferencing is lieu of travel for face-to-face meetings has become one way that companies can become more sustainable. Having an on-line meeting can decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated from car and airplane trips.
- Reach a Wider Audience - For those of you who teach seminars and training sessions, often times you are limited on the number of presentations you can give due to travel. A webinar can help you broaden your reach by having participants from around the globe.
Who is Using It?
As I started talking to other business owners, companies and organizations across a range of industries I was amazed at the way different people are using the technology.
In the education sector, universities and colleges have embraced video conferencing solutions as a way to spread their materials to a larger audience. Elizabeth Massengale, a Director at Texas Tech University noted that video conferencing “enables us to provide much needed education to a much larger audience at the fraction of the cost”.
An owner of a boutique accounting firm uses video conferencing services to hold short meeting with her clients once a quarter. She found that these personalized session, even if they are just 15-minutes long, helps her maintain a great relationship with her clients. She has also found out that this is a way that she can differentiate herself from her competition.
Public safety organizations with a service area that covers a wide geographic area can use real-time video conferencing to coordinate resources. For example, the City of Noblesville Indiana has seven fire departments across 55 square miles. By holding on-line video conferencing, everyone can participate in the meeting without having to leave their respective stations.
A colleague of mine who does online marketing training used a webinar to give her clients a preview of her upcoming training session and to answer questions. At the end of her webinar, she offered people a discount if they committed to signing up for the training. She was able to convert quite a few of the attendees into her new training session.
Video and Web Conference Software
All of the magic of video and web conferencing happens with the use of software to make the connection and get everyone connected on the same channel. Some programs require software installation on your computer; while other let you access the conference through your normal web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox). There are a variety of service providers out there and the pricing depends on the frequency that you use the service.
I am a fan of MegaMeeting (www.megameeting.com). Over the last couple of years that I have been using their service, I have engaged a larger number of my clients and also collaborated more effectively with my business partners who live outside my town.
When I started with MegaMeeting, the whole world of video web conferencing was new to me. I found their program easy to use and when there were times that I was unsure on how to proceed I was able to get very quick technical support.
If you think video and web conferencing might be a way for you to better engage with your clients and business partners, I would invite you to give the service a try. They have a free online demo and trial period available.