There was a time when video conferencing was a luxury that only large corporations could afford. Smaller businesses that lack the resources to deploy complex equipment and hire technical experts used other forms of communication (like audio conferencing).
But video conferencing has now become more accessible and affordable. (And sometimes free!) This is mostly thanks to the continued development of Voice over IP or VoIP—more on this later. These days, you can literally carry this powerful communication and collaboration tool inside your pocket.
Let’s take a deep dive into the subject of video conferencing and how you can use it to run a business more effectively.
Video conferencing definition
Video conferencing is a type of online meeting where two or more people engage in a live audio-visual call. With a strong internet connection, the participants can see, hear, and talk to each other in real time, no matter where in the world they are.
In business, people typically use video conferencing to communicate and collaborate within and outside an organization. You just need to set up the necessary hardware and software to get the most out of the experience.
What are the basic components of a video conferencing system?
Video conferencing brings people working from different places together in a virtual meeting room. To make that possible, you’ll need:
- A stable internet connection
- A video display device (laptop, desktop monitor, or a television screen)
- A computer or conference phone
- Other peripherals (webcam, microphone, headset, speaker, etc.)
- Video conferencing software
Some offices have dedicated video conference rooms where they keep high-definition cameras and video displays as well as top-quality audio systems designed specifically for meetings. This amplifies the experience, of course—but the truth is, you can have effective video meetings with just a laptop and the right software.
Types of video conferencing
In point-to-point video conferencing, there are only two participants communicating from different locations in real time.
One-on-one customer support
Most modern businesses are equipped to provide personalized customer experiences. With the right equipment and software, they can address concerns and inquiries in an instant.
Employers can speed up the hiring process by conducting job interviews online. This has become a pretty common practice especially for companies that offer remote flexibility.
Multipoint video conferencing involves three or more participants; that’s why it’s also called “group video conferencing”. This is different from the three-way calling that comes as a feature with many business phone systems.
With multipoint conferencing, you can host or join meetings with larger groups. This makes it ideal for businesses with several office locations and remote workers. In cases like this, a conference bridge comes in handy.
A conference bridge is basically software or hardware used as a hub for a large conference call. Think of it as a way for different groups of people to join a single meeting.
There are many ways for you to conduct a multipoint video conference, typically depending on the number of active speakers in the meeting and the total number of participants.
Workers conduct team meetings to achieve a specific objective. It calls for higher-quality cameras to capture a room full of people and an expansion microphone to make sure your audio is clear.
A webinar is an online presentation that aims to educate participants. Unlike team meetings, which are open discussions, webinars put the focus on the speaker or facilitator. Businesses typically use this format for product launches and demos.
How does video conferencing work?
Video conferencing is powered by VoIP, the technology that makes voice communications over the internet possible. In order to transfer audio and video signals between two locations, VoIP relies on special algorithms called codecs (coder-decoder).
Data compression (coding)
Imagine an ongoing video meeting. The camera captures analog video signals and, when someone speaks, the microphone captures their audio signals. VoIP turns these signals into data packets for the internet to understand and for the transfer to begin.
Data transfer and decompression (decoding)
The packets of data travel over the internet. When they reach their destination, they change back into analog video and audio signals for the attendees on the other side to see and hear.
Conferencing solutions typically come with echo cancellation to eliminate sound delays. This way, the audio and video remain in sync. Depending on the provider you choose, you’ll find that there are numerous other features that make video conferencing such a powerful business tool.
Key features of video conferencing software
Video conferencing solutions offer a wealth of features to provide a rich online meeting experience. Here are some of the more interesting and useful ones to date:
Visually share documents, presentations, or images during a video call:
With everyone on the same page, the whole team can brainstorm more efficiently and decide faster as a group. Some apps only allow the host to share their screen while others permit any participant.
At times you may need to annotate on a shared screen. For example, you can do this in RingCentral Video:
While some apps only allow the host to annotate, others enable simultaneous annotation of other participants.
If you want to ask a question without interrupting the speaker, you can use the chat box:
Most apps offer private and group chat options and allow chat logs to be saved.
Securely send files to any of the participants in a video call. If you need to transfer a document or a video or audio recording during the meeting, you can do so without using a third-party solution.
Video call recording
Record video meetings for later streaming. This is usually done for documentation purposes or to let anyone who missed the meeting catch up on the discussion.
Minimize noise that can distract participants from an ongoing meeting. Paper shuffling, typing from a keyboard, and other background noises can make the speaker’s voice inaudible.
Seamlessly switch devices in the middle of a call. You can start a video conference using your desktop computer and switch to your mobile phone as you head to the break room—and never have to disrupt the meeting.
When an in-person meeting isn’t possible, video conferencing is the best solution. But a bit of fair warning: not all conferencing solutions are created equal.
For example, consumer-level software can be downloaded over the internet for free. These apps don’t have all the features businesses need, though, so you won’t be getting the full benefits of professional-grade video meeting technology.
Video conferencing benefits
Video conferencing is transforming the way organizations communicate and collaborate. If your company still relies on audio conferencing, you might want to check out these benefits of video communication:
Video conferencing software typically comes with screen sharing, file transfer, group chat, and other features that enhance collaboration. None of that is possible with other forms of communication like audio conferencing, SMS, or email. When everyone is in sync, they make informed decisions faster and work more efficiently.
The visual component humanizes the conversation, making video conferencing much more engaging than other forms of communication. It allows you to see body language and facial expressions even without engaging in face-to-face interactions.
Humans process visual data faster than they do text or audio. Compared to an audio meeting, it’s more likely for meeting attendees to understand and retain information more effectively when video is involved. Visuals can also help keep them alert and focused on the discussion.
The start and end time of video conferences are usually predefined. This way, attendees have less time for idle talk and are more likely to stick to the agenda.
Time and cost savings
In most cases, the goals of an in-person meeting can also be accomplished through video conferencing. Job interviews, webinars, and business meetings—all these can be done without having to spend gas money and endure insane traffic just to get to a specific place at a specific time.
Sometimes, companies need to have important meetings with partners from other parts of the country or the world. Thanks to video conferencing, they wouldn’t have to coordinate and pay for flights, lodging, and food (which they’d need to do with in-person meetings).
Remote workforce support
The rise of video conferencing made the possibility of having a completely remote workforce even more valid. Proof of this is the fact that businesses can now operate without a physical office and hire staff from all over the world.
Even if your team is working from different locations, they can still get things done while maintaining human and professional relations—all because they’re able to join meetings anytime using any device.
With all these benefits, it’s easy to see that video conferencing has given rise to the modern meeting room. What’s keeping you from trying it?