Within the span of a few months, most of our normalcy in life has gone through some form of adjustment and change. Daily tasks are at a distance, often greater than 6 feet, yet daily life ticks on, regardless. Fortunately, technology has shown its strengths and versatility as countless businesses and institutions have embraced the world of video conferencing.
For those already using this time and distance span, the influx of new users somewhat validates their pioneer spirits. For those just joining in the fun, video conferencing can be both confusing and enlightening. But, current situations aside, this isn’t necessarily a new or uncharted information medium. In fact, video communication and conferencing have a rich and storied past, which we’ll explore today, along with an examination of where this versatile format is today.
A Study of Video Conferencing
Organizing and holding group meetings and conferences when the group isn’t all assembled is not a new challenge. This is video conferencing defined. Numerous solutions have come and gone, everything from mail-by-bird to pony express and telegraphs and, ultimately, telephones have been used to send and receive messages. The advent of the telephone and its employment as a business staple has been critical for connecting and communicating with clients and business associates alike. And teleconferencing has been central to board meetings for decades. Communication in real-time makes business move.
With video conferencing, communication has reached its next plateau. Not only do you have the words, but you have the actions, the mannerisms, the eyes, hands, and overall body gestures. You send and receive visual information with audial explanations. Clients are exposed to a visualized project pitch and board members witness the opening of a new plant in real-time, with real interaction. To put it simply, video conferencing brings us a step closer to in-person physical contact. And the connectivity between people when eyes lock and smiles happen demonstrates its power.
In fact, studies indicate that, among executives reported, over 80% prefer telecommunication conferences for internal and external communications, and nearly 90% of professionals polled reported using teleconferencing as compared to less than 50% two years ago. As humans, we are visual creatures. We have forward-facing eyes, we see colors well, and we recognize people through facial recognition the most accurately. Even as infants, we are already recognizing and disseminating facial features for socialization.
The Evolution of Video Conferencing
In a little more than a century and a half, the idea of video communication has grown from fantasy to reality. Of course, it took some innovations in technology and data transmission to bring video conferencing to fruition, but the essence of the idea has existed for quite a while. As far back as the late 1800s, the idea of sending pictures, accompanied by sound, was first documented.
Upon the arrival of the telephone, the thought to send pictures over those same lines began to percolate, with early attempts successful, but difficult, at best. Still, the idea captivated and slowly gained steam.
The medium’s naming was also changing and evolving. A “telephonoscope” was an early device, as well as the “visual radio” or “sight-sound television system”. Each one was able to build on the past and transform it for the future. Not until 1935 does the term “video” enter the popular lexicon, with the 1950s first seeing the actual usage of the term “video phone”. This science fiction of the past became the precursor to the reality of today.
Decades pass and video communication, as a concept, begins to take on features of reality. The 80s is often remembered for big business, board rooms, and intense executives, all clamoring for information to fuel their aspirations. Telecommunication was a necessity. Video conferencing was just a logical next step.
Additionally, personal computers became a defining icon of the 80s, technology, in general, was the soup du jour for a decade. The internet begins its ascent around the same time, exponential growth sees problems solved in a fraction of the time, and we’re off and running.
Advantages of Video Conferencing
It is truly challenging to imagine a world without access to video on demand. Even though cell phones and wireless services are still in their own growth and expansion period, the consumption of video by the public is mountainous. YouTube et al. have entranced generations of video clip connoisseurs, and the recent explosion of live streams should further solidify just how much we radiate a need for human interaction.
Early adoption of video conferencing mostly began in the business sector. Enterprises were able to see the benefits of making a video call versus sending personnel across the globe. Company bottom lines also recognized the benefits of travel expenses being reduced, as well as employee fatigue, commute times, and distances.
Soon after, other groups, such as the courts, legal systems, and the military began to incorporate video conferencing into their normal methods of operation. Eliminating time and distance for information gathering is the goal of communication. Keeping your people in-house and still receiving the necessary face time with your team or partners is achieved through video conferencing.
The composition of current video conferencing users spans the gamut. Business and military still maintain a hefty portion of overall users, but other groups are quickly seeing their numbers of users starting to steadily rise, especially with greater options for free video conferencing.
By incorporating this technology, institutions can:
- maintain regular face-to-face meetings with individuals or groups around the world
- reduce travel costs and travel/commute time
- record a video conference for later playback and documentation
- connect multiple groups from multiple locations in one space
- participants can remain in their stable work environment, allowing for greater productivity
- Expedite the overall speed of the organization
Video Conferencing Setups
A video conference’s definition refers to the overall use of the medium, but how it is set up can vary. In-office settings or larger industry boardrooms, separate cameras, and monitors, along with external microphones may be set up to capture professional-quality video and sound. When addressing a large group, video and audio clarity become focal points and quality equipment may be necessary.
For one-on-one or small group meetings, built-in mics and cameras on a laptop or mobile device may be all that’s required. These setups are readily available on most devices and are relatively user-friendly. Desktop setups are also relatively simple and similar, with one of the main differences involving the use of an external webcam.
Other variables may be in the method of connectivity. Mobile connections are portable but may encounter some interruptions or lag to the feed. A hard-wired or wi-fi approach can offer the potential for more robust connectivity, but limits users on mobility. Additionally, as internet providers increase network speeds and device technology continues to advance, the video conferencing mindset will crystalize.
Uses of Video Conferencing
As mentioned previously, video conferencing allows for real-time connectivity and interaction, as well as a bevy of tools that enhance the overall usability. It is little wonder, then, why so many varied organizations and institutions are turning to video conferencing as their go-to communications medium.
- Education – Teachers, students, and administrators can all attest to the power of video conferencing, particularly in distance learning. The ability to connect from multiple locations can adversely affect the education of a student, or the ability to connect PTSA with administrators without a common physical location. Outside of distance learning, teachers and tutors can provide additional help and tuition to students outside of school hours, and an emerging trend is to provide distance education, with the help of video conferencing, to students unable to attend their physical school due to sickness or otherwise. Students from around the world can connect directly to truly understand how others live and learn.
- Business – Reduce travel time and expenses and never miss a meeting. Businesses around the world have seen exponential expansion from this new business principal. Meetings can take place almost as fast as they are imagined or deemed necessary. The business world has long recognized the power of video conferencing and communication and will only continue to push those parameters.
- Training – Training new or existing employees and associates is a multi-billion dollar industry and we’ve probably all experienced a training session or two in our careers. With video training, employees can receive the necessary next steps to continue their paths, no matter their location. Travel for training is also minimized, and because it’s video, recordings and playbacks offer an endless review of material and greater flexibility for each employee’s training schedule.
- Government – Like business, the government has maintained a vested interest in video conferencing for numerous reasons. Information from global locations is immediately available and interactive. From the military, governmental agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, video conferencing increases efficiency, efficacy, and governing abilities.
Video Conferencing Solutions
There are numerous software solutions available in the market, each with its unique features and options. Your particular needs will dictate which one will work best, so getting to know about what’s available can benefit you greatly.
Some of the more popular or well-known names in video conferencing are Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet. With such a competitive market emerging for video conferencing and with new technology becoming available regularly, your decision should come after thoroughly examining your options.
Keep in mind that the key to video conferencing is a secure and solid video feed. A lagging feed or one with lower quality video can negatively impact an important meeting. HuddleBoard is a solution that has numerous advantages over its more well-known rivals such as:
- It uses WebRTC, recognized as the most secure communication mechanism in the world. Keep in mind Zoom’s many recent issues and how quickly some companies abandoned its use altogether. Security in the digital world is critical.
- It can display simultaneously from one person, their self-camera, and screen share.
- It allows the user to selectively choose whom to view in a larger viewport.
- Outperforms Zoom, Skype, and Teams for video quality. A recent study concluded that WebRTC is “considerably better than the Zoom”.
- No software installation is required, simply open your web browser and go.
Video conferencing is well and truly part of our future. And, never before has it been so glaringly obvious, its ability to connect to all things business and industry-related, as well as on a personal level. We are living in a fast-paced world, which, even when on pause, won’t stop. Get on board today and see how this medium can transform your world.