The Enterprise Connect convention–a gathering of people and companies from the communications and collaboration industry–is a good indicator of the evolution of communications in the workplace. The Orlando event, which took place just about a month ago in March, points to the visual future of office communications–and so does its very name.
The event used to be known as VoiceCon. The target audience was the same, but the tangible move from audio-only to video and messaging-based communication meant the old name had to go. In the words of the organizers themselves, the event had to be renamed to reflect “a shift in the marketplace and a shift in the technology.”
It’s just one of many signs that audio-only, telephone-dependant communication is on its way out. The advantages of video conferencing are why you can no longer pique the interest of IT departments and office managers with the word “voice.” Visual is more powerful, more personal, and an obvious fit within the connected, unified communications systems of today.
Don’t believe me, just have a look at these advantages over the old audio-only format.
The Advantages of Video Conferencing
- It Builds Trust
- It Replaces Travel
- It Makes Location Flexible
- It Makes Showing and Sharing Content Easy
- It Offers New Ways of Communicating
- It’s the Way Younger Generations Communicate
1. It Builds Trust
The biggest point of difference between audio and visual communication is also the most powerful argument in the latter’s favor–with video, you can see each other. We’ve all heard the adage that communication is 93% nonverbal (the actual research shows 55% is visual and the majority of the rest both your words and your tone) but the visual advantage goes beyond mere comprehension. Research has shown that video communication is the best way to build trust between people who can’t share an in-room experience. If you want to build a relationship with clients, colleagues, and collaborators, you’ll want a much face time as you can get.
2. It Replaces Travel
Following from that point, video’s superior ability to replicate an in-room meeting means it can more reliably be used as a substitute for in-person meetings. That, in turn, reduces the need to travel to sit down with clients, partners, employees from other offices, or potential investors. And the savings are substantial. Some companies that regularly use video conferencing in place of in-room meetings save millions of dollars in travel expenses, which is unsurprising, given that the average business trip costs U.S. employers up to $500 per person, per day. Video conferencing also does away with lost work days due to employees being in transit. For all these reasons, it’s well worth it for any business, no matter how small, to invest in a webcam or video conferencing setup.
3. It Makes Location Flexible
While most of those virtual meetings are going to be of the office-to-office variety, video does come with the ability to take the conversation outside, on location. Of course, you can stage an audio call outside of the office as well, but video gives context and purpose to your location. From giving a visual display of construction in progress to a walk through a showroom, or even a drive around a potential investment property, only video can immerse a caller into the world beyond their conference room.
4. It Makes Showing and Sharing Content Easy
Wherever you set up your virtual meeting, video allows you to share more than your surroundings. A webcam can capture anything, person or object, you set in front of it, which means you can display prototypes, products, artwork, and designs easily. In addition, the majority of video calling platforms have built-in chat services that can share files with drag-and-drop simplicity. Anything you can’t fit into such a feature–and Skype messaging can send more data than Gmail–can be shared via your desktop with screen sharing, now also a common feature. On an audio call, you’d have to go outside the meeting platform and share files over email…and no one wants another email.
5. It Offers New Ways of Communicating
All the advantages we just talked about help recreate your standard in-person meeting. Increasingly, however, and with the aid of new technology, video can be put to work creating whole new ways of seeing and communicating. With virtual and augmented reality–computer-generated images overlaid on top of or replacing a real-life, real-time image–we’ll soon be able to hold meetings in fictional, digital, interactive environments where information can be shared in whatever way makes sense. That means an architect and her client will both be able to walk around a computer-generated model of a building, and a startup pitching an idea will be able to take an investor through simulated, interactive demonstrations of what the final product might look like.
6. It’s the Way Younger Generations Want to Work
If an augmented or virtual reality-based office seems like futuristic technologies from sci-fi movies, you’ve got a potential problem on your hands. The Millennial and Generation Z employees that will make up 75% of the workforce by 2030 are already comfortable using these tools in their everyday lives–remember Pokemon Go?–and they expect to do so at work. Recent research found that just over 30% of Millennials believe their tech at home is better than the tech at the office, which means
any employer that can meet those expectations has a recruitment advantage. The emerging generations have grown up in a cocoon of interconnected digital devices, devices that switch from internet search to chat message to video call in an instant and keep them in constant contact with their peers. The idea of trying to impress or get the best out of young talent with a desk phone and a list of phone numbers is archaic.
We don’t live in an audio-only world anymore. We chat, we message, and we FaceTime with visual clarity outside the office, and, as the organizers of the former VoiceCon convention realized, that same video dynamic will soon dominate our offices as well.
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