Business Management

Neil Downing (Europe) - The Next Best Thing to Teleporters - the Growing Trend of Videoconferencing

Video conferencing has long been dubbed as the answer to expensive, time consuming corporate travel. It has also been seen as a great way to reduce carbon emissions. All of this is true and incredibly valuable to companies, particularly those with multi-site offices and strategic R&D partnerships that span multiple countries. Yet there are additional benefits that have remained relatively unrecognised.

Video conferencing allows people to be in more than one place at a time. I am not talking about cloning people. It simply allows you to be in New York one minute, Milan the next, and then back at your desk in London. Video conferencing connects people in a way that has not previously been envisaged in business communications. It allows face-to-face communication at any point in the day between colleagues who otherwise would have to depend on email or phone calls. The benefits for business are enormous.

From a psychological perspective, it allows employees to engage in and observe verbal and non-verbal behaviour not captured in emails or voice conference calls. Body language can be monitored and facial expressions picked up on. This leads to clearer communications and moves things forward faster. If there are misunderstandings, people will realise there and then. Confusion is limited.

Recently I've been hiring across Europe and done quite a few job interviews over videoconferencing. With HD quality, I can see the expression and body language; both of which are crucial in interview situations as you lose no details during this experience. Even when candidates are presenting to me as part of their interview, the experience is very good - the presentation slides on one screen, and the candidate presenting on the other. The whole recruitment process has been much faster, I've been able to respond much more quickly to set up interviews for candidates whose CV I'm really interested in. My ability to hire people from across Europe is significantly sped up.

Getting to know someone in person, albeit via cyber space, helps create a sense of team work and collaboration. We are social beings and human contact is important. By replicating this social interaction via video conference, it creates stronger business relationships. Transparency and trust is created via video conference - trust is an integral part of working life.

During voice calls, people can be distracted by emails, other people coming to their desks, and things going on in the office. Using video conference deters these distractions from getting in the way of the meeting.

This of course has knock on benefits to the business. Decision making effectiveness is increased. It provides the ability to view products from a different part of the globe. Innovation is increased and product cycles reduced. All this is vitally important in the competitive global market. It creates a sense of team bonding, which increases motivation and the stronger business relationships means everyone is working to produce the desired result.

It doesn't take much to work out the value of face-to-face meetings and high definition video conferencing does away with the need to develop the first Star Trek style teleporter. HD videoconferencing allows people to meet - wherever they are - in a way that voice calls can't. Decisions are faster, misunderstandings reduced, leading to a more streamlined and efficient business.

By Neil Downing, Director of Corporate Products and Services, Interoute



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