Businesses have become increasingly global and with customers and business partners located all over the world, organisations must react to the new ways of working to stay competitive. Technology can help bridge that connection through the use of conference calls. Video conferencing can generate similar benefits to face-to-face communications without incurring the high travel costs, environmental footprint and productivity downtime that typically accompanies in-person meetings.
By letting people see important non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language, adding video to a conference call increases understanding, even across language and cultural boundaries. When video is added to a client conference call, the entire feel and etiquette of the meeting changes. Participants can see and be seen. Any sense of distance is removed. Participants are less likely to ‘zone out’ or multitask, as they might on an audio conference. When combined with conferencing that supports content sharing, your meeting can become even more productive, allowing participants to share documents in real-time and leave the meeting with new knowledge and clear action items.
Employee travel is expensive, not just in cost, but also in time. It’s much more efficient to have a video call, than it is to spend time traveling, to have that face-to-face meeting. If they don’t have to spend hours or days travelling to and from meetings, employees are more productive. It also allows professionals to target prospects and clients regardless of where they’re located, then meet with them anywhere, anytime, in a real-time environment. There is also a strong environmental argument for conference calls. The World Wildlife Fund stated that by 2030 the increasing use of conferencing solutions over travel could reduce global carbon emissions by a billion tonnes every year.
So, with all these benefits associated with video conferencing, why are the majority of professional service businesses still reluctant to move away from traditional audio conferencing or in-person meetings? With client expectations top of mind for these meetings, it’s important to provide an exceptional meeting experience and the fear of leaving a bad impression, especially with someone you are meeting for the first time, is just too high. The good news is that video can be used to improve traditional audio conferencing and reduce the need for in-person meetings. But in order to do so, there are 5 common mistakes that should be avoided in order to provide a high-quality visual encounter with video conferencing.
1. Never compromise the audio reliability of your call
We’ve all been there. You are on a video call and then suddenly the screen freezes and the audio drops and whatever you try to do, you cannot get it to restart. Now imagine this happens on a meeting with the decision maker at your biggest global account. Although video can translate into closer relationships, it’s the audio that is critical to your meeting. Based on LoopUp research, we found that 46% of video conferencing users have experienced audio quality issues on video calls. If you’re going to add video to your conference call, don’t let poor web connectivity or bandwidth issues compromise audio reliability. Make sure that all participants join the call by phone using the PSTN, rather than using VoIP on their computer. This way, if a participant experiences bandwidth issues, their video may be impacted but their audio will remain reliable – and the meeting can continue.
2. Only add video to a conference call when it is appropriate
Yes, video conferencing can be hugely advantageous to a meeting and can result in improved communication and engagement, but only if it is used in the appropriate setting. LoopUp research found that 68% of professionals feel that video is not always helpful on every remote meeting. For example, video adds value if all participants in a meeting are highly engaged and are contributing equally to a meeting, such as a negotiation between groups of individuals, but your client would probably not appreciate having a video call when they are on the move, or are listening in and would prefer to multitask in the meeting. If you are in doubt over whether to use video, don’t use it.
3. Start the call with audio only
You can always judge whether to turn on video during the meeting. Just make sure you don’t catch your client out with video that automatically turns on when they join the meeting. It’s not appropriate to confront a guest by switching their camera on while they’re still figuring out how to join the call. Make sure you start your meeting as an audio call initially before asking permission to turn on video should you deem it appropriate.
4. Don’t overwhelm your guests with complex features
There are many audio and video conferencing providers in the market today and not everybody is familiar with every single one. If your client is joining your video meeting, there is a chance they will not have encountered your conferencing provider before. You do not want them getting overwhelmed or confused by the experience; how do they turn on their camera? How do they share their screen? Where can they find the mute button? In a LoopUp survey, 39% of respondents said they would use video conferencing more if it were less complicated. Make sure you use a tool that is as simple and intuitive as possible, so that it can be used without the need for training. Otherwise you will end up stressing out your guest and wasting time explaining how to use the tool instead of focussing on the meeting at hand.
5. Don’t block your clients from joining a meeting with downloads
If you have a critical business meeting taking place, the last thing you want to do is annoy the client before the meeting has even started or even block them from joining. Make sure your video conferencing tool does not require any downloads before the guest can join the meeting. LoopUp found that 27% of users have struggled to join a video call because a download was required. Your client’s time is precious, and they should not be required to spend 15 minutes downloading a tool to join your call. In addition, most large organisations today do not grant their employees local admin rights to allow for downloads. If you are going to use a product that requires downloads, make sure you let your client know so they aren’t shocked to find out they are running late for the meeting because they have to wait for an install.
- Audio is critical to your meeting so make sure you prioritise it over video and make sure that the audio component of the call is carried over PSTN rather than VoIP for absolute reliability.
- Video is not always necessary and can in some situations be awkward, unproductive or even detrimental to a meeting. Use your judgement and if in doubt, don’t turn it on.
- Don’t catch your guests out with video that automatically turns on when they join the meeting but rather start with an audio-only conference call and engage video if appropriate and your guests are comfortable to do so.
- Make sure you use a conferencing tool that has a simple and intuitive interface, so that it can be used without the need for training as not all your guests will be familiar with it.
- Use a remote meeting solution that allows guests to join a call without requiring downloads. They may not have time to wait for a download or may not have the permissions on their company network to allow for an install.
Video conferencing can be a powerful tool in helping drive true engagement and in allowing us to consider not only the words being spoken, but also facial expressions, posture, and overall body language that we use to intuitively decode what’s really being said. It can also have a positive impact on business productivity and environmental factors. If used badly, however, it can lead to poor meeting experiences, leave negative impressions on guests and embarrass hosts and guests alike. Risks like this drive employees to continue to use traditional audio-only dial-in solutions and keep them from unlocking the true potential of video.