Videoconferencing tech focused on fixing business problems
Were you stuck in rush-hour traffic this morning? Could you have missed an important meeting as a result?
Well, a solution might be at hand. Advances in the quality of videoconferencing have led some to believe that the technology is as good – if not better – than meeting face-to-face.
Michael Helmbrecht is the chief product and operations officer at Texas-based videoconferencing company Lifesize. He says videoconferencing platforms are now able to save organisations time and money while offering the same experience as if you were in the same room.
In October the company launched the Lifesize Icon 450, a smart-framing device that automatically adjusts the camera to centre everyone in the room. It is advances like this that will help users forget they’re using tech at all, says Helmbrecht.
“The tech disappears and you can just have the meeting,” he explains. “That’s what we do and what makes it special. It’s a connected device, and we just tried to make an outstanding, simple experience.”
Helmbrecht believes it is now at a point where the tech becomes so intuitive people just expect that it will work seamlessly.
“This is what good looks like for us,” he says. “There’s layer after layer of complexity you can peel away; a huge portion of our investment is around simplification.”
Helmbrecht says audio-only conference calls are a distraction.
“When you’re on video you have to pay attention,” he says. “You can’t update Facebook or post to Instagram because everyone sees you do it, so it’s like being in a room in terms of cultural norms.
"We have all have grown up with audio calls where one person talks and everyone else mutes, and as time goes by you lose track, then get asked a question and you have to ask them to repeat it and everyone knows that meeting is waste of time. If it’s important then you don’t get on the phone.
“Our primary competition is not other tech providers, it’s airlines, highways and trains. Our biggest issue is to make people aware what’s possible and that it’s feasible and cost-effective today. We want to show them there’s a better way.”
Alex Hunte is co-founder at London-based LyteSpark, a browser-based video conference, meetings and events platform. He wants to bring back businesses that in the past dismissed videoconferencing as not good enough.
“It’s about making it so easy you don’t need to go to your IT department to get set up,” he says. “You should be able to try the service and be holding a videoconference within a minute – if it takes longer than that it’s too complex.”
As so much of communication is non-verbal, videoconferencing means that users can get the same level of body language and eye contact as they would in person, says Hunt.
“When you’re speaking by phone you miss these two major points,” he explains. “When you meet someone face-to-face you can relax and when you see someone over video the same thing happens, you drop a lot of the formality that comes even with a friendly phone call.
“The quality of communication increases to a point where you don’t need to meet face-to-face as much in order to have a really productive business relationship.”
Hunte still believes that meeting in person is best for certain situations but only really necessary for the first, important meeting; after that videoconferencing can step in – as long as it’s taken seriously.
“We’ve experimented with different things like meeting timers or locking someone out if they’re late – there are lots of things you can add to make the point,” he says.
“Another thing we’re experimenting with, although it’s not quite accurate enough yet, is a timer on how long each person speaks. At the end of the meeting you can send round a list of attendees and how long each person spoke for – you can draw your own conclusions from that.”
Based in Poland, Clickmeeting hosted around half a million online events in 2016 with well over a million attendees, and is now focusing on webinars.
Jarek Wasielewski is content manager for the company and believes that once you have the idea for your event Clickmeeting’s tools can help you both before and after the meeting itself.
“It’s all about having a message you want to spread,” he says. “Our features are there to help you turn that into a success, and then we’re with you after it’s finished, with analytics tools that measure your performance.”
He believes that listening to customer feedback is key going forwards, especially as dislike of change is the main thing currently holding people back from adopting the tech.
“We want our users to focus on the webinar and its content, rather than figuring out the platform. We just know that if it’s frustrating, people will not use it,” he says.
“There's no installation required so the whole webinar experience is easy for both attendees and organisers. You can focus on what’s really important – the webinar – rather than figuring out the platform.”
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