9 Best Uses for Video Conferences

By: Amy Linley

First What You Should Know About Video Conferencing

What are the best practices for video conferences? Sales meetings are prime examples. According to Computer Link Magazine, a notable firm produced a 3000% percent improvement in the sales-cycle with a Fortune 500 client by utilizing video conferencing on the internet. ?

Not only can sales grow when video conferencing but the technology can be used in the training of employees, brainstorming sessions, healthcare consultations, interviewing prospective employees and education. These are just some of the areas that gain substantial benefits from video conferencing. Friends and families also utilize video conferences to stay in touch and to celebrate major and minor events.

There has been much debate in the world of business regarding face-to-face versus video conferencing. Studies have reached different conclusions. For example, conclusions have been reached that worker productivity increases with video conferencing; stays the same and actually decreases. So what do you do, should you consider video conferencing at all?

It's important to make the correct choice when deciding whether to use video conferencing or a face-to-face meeting. The decision can have a significant influence on the effectiveness of the meeting and profits for a company. Let's take a look at the types of video conference meetings that can deliver substantial benefits to corporations and small businesses.

Meetings Requiring Quick Decisions

Video conferencing provides the opportunity for quick decisions which just can't be achieved when participants have to hop on an airplane. Making a swift conclusion based on group input by a teleconference deprives the primary decision maker the opportunity to notice body language and facial expressions. These visual cues can be important factors in determining the confidence the key members have regarding the decision. Communication experts claim that 70% of communication is non-verbal and video conferences allows you to view these non-verbal communications.

Video Conference Sales Meeting

Video conferencing allows decision makers who are out of the office to be involved in the beginning stages of the sales process. They also provide a convenient opportunity for important business members to watch recordings of vital meetings.

?Video conference sales meetings communicate with prospective customers that you are a state-of-the-art company and efficiency and technology is an important factor in your business strategy. This could be your "edge" over another firm.

Additionally, video conferences allow sales people to assess the interest of the prospect and determine if spending time to travel to a personal meeting is worthwhile.

Insights from an Actual Video Conference Sales Meeting

An article from Computer Link Magazine features an actual case which demonstrates the significant reduction in the sales-cycle which can be achieved with video conferences on the Internet. The company featured in the article received an inquiry from a Fortune 500 company located in Mexico. Through a few emails the two companies quickly agreed to a time for a video conference. During the meeting the customer's objectives were examined and a real-time demonstration of the company's product was provided. This was followed by a discussion regarding the benefits the client would receive from the product. That day, another technical review meeting was scheduled. In less than 29 hours the seller had found a highly qualified prospect that then had a strong understanding of the product and was also quite interested in finalizing the sale.

A standard approach to the sales opportunity would typically include numerous phone calls, mailing brochures, more phone calls and then traveling to Mexico. The firm estimated it would take from 30 to 45 days with a basic sales approach to accomplish what they achieved in less than 29 hours.

Video Conferencing versus Teleconferencing

Sales people have the opportunity to demonstrate how their products function with video conferencing, which simply cannot be done with a teleconference. Some studies have concluded that live video meetings are about 80% more helpful at creating a solid bond with people. Stronger bonds can create more sales.

Although a teleconference differs from a video conference in that it has the benefit of being inexpensive and can be attended without being in a designated room or in front of a computer. By this very nature, teleconferences are still an important business tool and preferred by some in certain scenarios.

Worker Productivity with Video Conferences

Studies have concluded that constant travel leads to stress, sometimes depression and a variety of illnesses. This can affect a business' productivity and employee morale. When people stay home and utilize virtual collaboration, they may stay healthier and their productivity is typically higher.

Although somewhat controversial, some studies claim that video conferencing actually increases productivity. When employees are together in face-to-face meetings their conversations tend to leave the topic and perhaps wander over to sports, politics or personal stories. Video conferencing can help to keep the meeting on track both in time schedule and agenda. Some companies utilizing video conferences even claim they can bring products quicker to the marketplace by reducing the time spent commuting.

Video Conferencing to Train Employees

For companies with numerous locations, significant travel savings can be had by training with video conferencing. One big benefit is that employees can watch a recorded training session several times to make sure they comprehend the instructions.

Connecting Employees

A video conference can solve the problem of branch office employees feeling they are not personally connected with employees at the main office. When the company celebrates a new sale or an important achievement all the employees throughout the country and even world can celebrate together. Personal bonds will strengthen, which can lead to increased productivity, improved morale, and thereby lower turnover rate.

Hiring Employees by way of a Video Conference

You can interview prospective employees from all over the country when you use video conferencing. You can significantly increase the chance of hiring the best candidate and saved on travel expenses at the same time! Some employment recruiters however, have suggested that this format for employment works best for candidates less than 25 years of age or for preliminary interviews.

Possible Negatives of Long Distance Meetings

There have been some documented studies of the possible negatives of video conference meetings. According to a study by J. Sniezek and M. Crede, titled Group Judgment Processes and Outcomes in Video Conferencing vs. Face-to-Face Groups, the face-to-face meeting participants displayed a higher level of confidence in the decisions they made versus participants in long distance meetings.

Some companies have found that employees often go along with the ideas of the group at their location during long distance collaborations. It's important for management to review all the top suggestions from video conferences to prevent this type of "peer pressure selection" from occurring. Also, participants don't have the opportunity to get to know the other meeting members during break times and scheduling an international meeting across numerous time zones can be difficult. That being said, the savings that a firm realize with video conferencing may well outweigh any negatives.

In Conclusion It's Time to Try Video Conferencing

Sales meetings, hiring employees, meetings requiring quick decisions, and bringing employees together are some of the prominent best uses for video conferencing. It should be noted that in the future the term face-to-face meeting may have to be replaced with the phrase a "handshake meeting." Young people are growing up with text messaging, seeing their friends' faces on their computers in real-time. With social websites such as My Space, it's common for young people to have friends scattered all over the world they have never actually met in person. Numerous articles on the Internet mention having face-to-face meetings by way of computers. In the future, workers might be amazed to learn that their predecessors actually spent time and money flying on a plane to have a face-to-face meeting or a "handshake meeting". Perhaps future generations will think it's best to have all types of communications with variations on video conferences.?

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