Communications technology has come a long way in the past decade, especially with the introduction of smart phones, WiFi and social networking. In fact, most of us would now admit that a significant part of our social lives revolve around the technology we use. So why then, are so many businesses still not using teleconferencing instead of face to face meetings? Here’s a few reasons why choosing teleconferencing as a medium for your business meetings is greener and more cost effective than organising to meet face to face, as well as the best ways to get the most from your teleconference.
No need for transport
One of the most obvious benefits of choosing to use teleconferencing is that there is no need to travel across cities or even across country to meet face to face. If all parties involved already work in the same building, meeting in a conference room is easy, but when the parties involved are spread out, there will inevitably be some driving or even flying involved if you decide you all need to meet in person. This drives up your company’s carbon emissions as well as costing either the individual or the business money. The only energy used in holding a teleconference is the electricity used to run any lighting or computers needed- and chances are, these would have been used during the business day anyway.
Teleconferences are often planned well in advance and stick to a set agenda. Making sure that all parties are able to instigate the teleconference on time is important, which generally makes everyone more likely to turn up on time and well prepared. Entering into a teleconference late is usually more disruptive and embarrassing than arriving late at a meeting.
Teleconferences help all parties to focus on the task in hand and are less likely to be held up by small talk or other distractions, making them quicker and more efficient, leaving all parties more time to get on with the rest of their day’s work.
Allows all parties to be more efficient with their time
Not only does a teleconference generally take less time than a face to face meeting- all parties can save time during their day by taking part in the conference while they’re on the go. Travelling to and from the meeting can sometimes take as long as the meeting itself, but by keeping the conference virtual, all parties can take part wherever there’s WiFi, be that in their homes, offices, cars or coffee shops. Essentially, it lets your co-workers and associates communicate with you without the restrictions of location. And more time and freedom leads to greater productivity.
How to set up a teleconference
A voice-only teleconference is easy to set up, and is essentially a phone call involving three or more people. Software such as Skype has gained significant popularity in recent years and is now used by everyone from business executives to backpackers calling home. Voice-only conferences and one-to-one video calls are available on their free version, but you’ll usually have to pay to call phones from your laptop or have more than two people in a video call.
Using video in your teleconference
With laptops, tablets and smart phones all coming with an integrated camera, video conference calls have never been easier. Software such as Skype can be a good way to integrate video into a conference call, and if you only need to talk one-to-one, Apple’s FaceTime makes video calling easily accessible and high quality. Teleconferences are now being integrated more easily into social networks- Hangouts on Google+ can be a good option using a free site which many are comfortable using.
Remember that a one-to-one call isn’t as restrictive as you may think- hooking your device to a larger screen using a HDMI cable can allow a room full of people to see and hear the conversation, perfect for presentations and lecturing situations.
Problems you may encounter
Though teleconferencing has plenty of benefits, using it to communicate may not be quite as seamless as talking in person. Nevertheless, these problems can usually be avoided or fixed in order to keep conversation flowing.
Audio and video syncing- Sometimes, when using video calls, you may find that audio is delivered quickly whilst video lags behind. This can make conversation feel awkward, particularly between people who don’t know each other well. If video isn’t necessary, switch to an audio-only call, to remove the distraction of slow video. If video is crucial to the teleconference, you may need to check that your internet connection isn’t being overwhelmed by other users. Also, check your video’s resolution. Keep it at 800×600 or lower. The video may be a little blurrier, but it should help it to process faster and stay in sync with your audio.
Conversation via teleconferencing can be straightforward between those familiar with one another. However, with strangers, or those you need to impress, it can stand in the way of certain social conducts such as eye contact or other body language. Although most people will understand that a video conversation can be different from speaking in person, it can sometimes be easier to give off the wrong impression. If you feel that a bad video call is going to stand in the way of making a good impression or put your professional image at risk, it could be worth sticking to audio-only, or meeting face to face.
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