Video conferencing is a must for any business. It reduces travel costs, encourages collaboration, makes your employees mobile, and makes your enterprise more accessible to both customers and partners. Your products and services are already accessible via the web; empowering your team with video conferencing allows them to travel alongside as the human face of your brand.
Not all video conferencing is created equal, however. It takes more than a webcam and a broadband connection to maximize the potential of an online presence. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the video conferencing key features your business needs to make sure your virtual meetings thrive. These include both software- and hardware-based features: software, in this instance, is primarily concerned with the features your video conferencing vendor offers in the platform you use to conduct meetings. Hardware refers to the audio and visual equipment that make up a quality video conferencing system.
Let’s begin our checklist with the defining element of 21st-century video conferencing: the Cloud. This affordable, flexible, and accessible format has freed video conferencing from the shackles of heavy IT and made it an everyday communication tool.
Video Conferencing Key Features: Software
Travel by Cloud
Cloud-based video conferencing maximizes your ROI by reducing your initial spend down to subscription-sized portions and pushing the responsibility for expensive server space and system maintenance on to your video vendor. It is flexible, scalable, and accessible to any company, meeting, or collaboration configuration.
Group Video Calls
We live in a customer-centered economy at the moment. The prevailing Software-as-a-Service model of video conferencing means we can and should demand our vendors supply the right features for our business needs. That begins with supporting group calls of as many participants as required. Most of the leading vendors now offer dozens of end-points, but make sure your maximum occupancy is within reach before you sign up.
Interoperability Is Essential
Video conferencing is no longer just about recreating a face-to-face meeting among remote users–though it is exceptional at that. It is a business tool and as such needs to integrate with the other analytical, workflow, and collaboration tools at your disposal. Your video app should be able to link seamlessly with products such as Salesforce, Dropbox, Google Chrome, and even commercial apps so that meetings can easily integrate the information that makes your business run.
Get BYOD Ready
Empowering your team to shift easily from office to office, platform to platform, and device to device is key. By making sure your video service is bring-your-own-device-friendly, you encourage teams and individuals to take ownership of their work and make it possible for employees to work from anywhere on a device they feel comfortable with.
Screen Sharing Makes a Meeting
There is much to be said for the use of multimedia, music, video, and live streams to inject some interest into “just another meeting.” Beyond just incorporating a dynamic other than talking heads in chat windows, such elements can better express the point of an argument, provide context to a situation, or just invite collaboration. Screen sharing is the easiest and most effective way to integrate outside media into your meeting. Now standard across video conferencing platforms, if your vendor can’t supply quality screen sharing, walk away.
Digital whiteboards used to be exclusively available as expensive hardware luxuries–and there are some great dedicated models out there–but, increasingly, they are being incorporated into video platforms as a software solution. While this feature may be lower in priority than some of those discussed above, whiteboards give your team free rein to draw, write, and brainstorm remotely as effectively as they would on the ubiquitous in-room whiteboard.
Video Conferencing Key Features: Hardware
Huddle Room or Conference Room?
The first and most important decision you’ll have to make on the hardware side of video conferencing is which camera to choose for your meeting space. You’ll most likely be picking between two main options: a camera with a wide-angle lens that caters for small teams in small rooms or a PTZ conference cam designed to service a large boardroom environment. There is generally little difference between the quality and features of the two categories of camera, so your decision should be based primarily on the size of the audience you are serving.
Hear and Be Heard
The typical number of video conferencing attendees you need to provide for and the size of the room they’ll use should also guide your audio needs. Individuals working at their desks or small teams huddling in tight confines will be well served with the all-in-one approach of compact webcams or conference cams with a built-in speaker and mic. Larger rooms, however, will need a system that includes dedicated microphones and speakers that can be positioned closer to meeting participants.
Invest in 4K
There is a debate within the video conferencing industry about whether 4K (ultra HD) hardware is future-proofing or effective today. The hardware is certainly currently available at consumer cost, but the hang-up is broadband efficiency. At the moment, it isn’t practical to send and receive the big data transfers need to convey 4K in all its glory. Still, in our opinion, you’re probably better served by investing in a 4K camera now and being ready for the jump in capacity than being forced into a second purchase once the higher resolution becomes standard–especially since the difference in cost is negligible with the right product.
Get Smart Devices
This feature is a bit of a hardware/software combo. If you hadn’t already heard, video conferencing is now hands-free. Advances in AI and smart technologies have moved the responsibility for basic camera work over to the cameras themselves and the software that comes with them. Many devices now ship with automated zoom, focus, lighting adjustment, and even motion-sensitive intelligent framing that adjusts itself every time someone enters or moves around the meeting room. Before you buy, make sure your video conferencing system of choice has the “auto” features you need to let you concentrate on the meeting and not worry about whether everyone fits on screen.