“Failure to Launch” — Why videoconferencing is underutilized after deployment

Have you ever heard about a company spending large amounts of money for videoconferencing equipment and it gets underutilized?  In one case a company spent more than one half million of their capital budget to deploy videoconferencing on their worldwide network and ended up with less than 5% utilization.  Needless to say, there was no return on investment.  There are basically 3 reasons for this failure – (See the article in this web site: “3 reasons why videoconferencing fails or falls short after a deploymentFailed Videoconferencing“).

There is however an overall problem with a very simple solution.  Have you ever walked into a conference room and seen a speaker phone on the conference table — One that you have never seen before?  Chances are you can make a call from this speaker phone immediately, only asking if you need to dial 9 for an outside line.  Maybe there was a laminated reference card on the conference table that included dialing instructions and phone extensions to key personnel in the company.   In any event more often than not there is no need to call a technical person to make a simple conference call with just about any speaker phone.  Videoconferencing in a conference room should be exactly the same.  Anybody should be able to walk in, pick up the remote and connect a videoconference call from the system’s phone book or easily dial a videoconference IP number.

We offer a bundle program whereby we combine the circuit with the hardware. The client does not have to spend any capital budget on the equipment.  It’s all consolidated into one low monthly fee.  The package makes videoconferencing simple and reliable because it does not touch the client’s existing network. (See Reason 1 – in the article “3 reasons why videoconferencing fails or falls short after a deployment“).  We specified a simple yet robust videoconferencing CODEC. They can connect a computer into the back just like an LCD projector and present from a distance easily with the push of one simple button on the remote.   In the event someone needs help, we prepared a laminated remote reference chart for each deployment. There are also 800 support numbers for both the network and the system —   We are still waiting for someone to call us.  Now we know what the “Maytag Repairman” feels like.   So far nobody has needed to refer to the plastic remote reference chart.  This is good news for this particular product — Videoconferencing should really be that simple.

The hardware deployment failed if you needed to call tech support to make a videoconference call. This is a “failure to launch” — This is inexcusable.  Videoconferencing should be simple and easy just like a speaker phone.   The next challenge is the other annoying office appliance, the copy machine!But that’s another story all together.

(Solve the problem with  “Worry free videoconferencing“)

Videoconferencing for large National Associations – “Members Only”

Association_Article_76Any type of national association needs to constantly deliver new added value to attract and retain members.  It could be access to technical information; a database of other members; events; tradeshows; newsletters with articles on the latest innovations or networking opportunities — What about videoconferencing?  Some associations are taking a serious look at adding boardroom and mobile app videoconferencing as an added value for “members only.”   Associations with nationwide multiple offices have a tremendous opportunity in offering free videoconferencing as a member benefit.  Sharing information, resources and new ideas among members should be part of any association’s mission. What better way to do this on a national level than a videoconferencing network just for association members.

Imagine having membership in your professional association and with that membership you have the ability to meet with partners; potential employees; vendors; customers; or anyone critical to your business, free of charge via videoconference. This benefit is worth about $200.00 dollars an hour for one location or $400.00 per hour for two locations.  The association gains at the far end with added exposure to a new potential member who participates in the videoconference.

Another gain for the association is board member recruitment.  Associations need to retain and recruit quality board members. What better way to have a board meeting and to have it via videoconference.  The association saves a tremendous amount of time and money for board meetings.  Also, to attract new high level busy executives to their board, videoconferencing will give an association a tremendous edge as their time is valuable and indeed limited.

Associations can also make their videoconferencing network an added income stream. An association can register all their videoconferencing rooms with an international room broker.  The room brokers send their clients to these locations.  Room brokers charge an hourly fee for non-members and split this fee with the Association. The association only needs to reserve their conference room and offer the non-member participant a friendly welcome and hot cup of coffee.  The brokers take care of all the billing.  The association invoices the brokers against a purchase order. It’s very simple to develop a steady income stream with the equipment.

One association, BtoB Connect, offers its members free videoconferencing in their boardroom for any member.  Any national association will have a tremendous edge on attracting and retaining members by offering videoconferencing as a membership benefit.  Visit BtoB Connect at:  www.btobconnect.com.

Videoconferencing and Streaming – What is the difference?

Look at videoconferencing like you would look at any other meeting.  People get together and interact with each other and collaborate using input from a computer, document camera, projector or white board.  Look at streaming like a broadcast or one-to-many speaking event.  The big difference is that in a videoconference everybody is interacting with each other like any other meeting.  In streaming, there is no interaction. It’s a one-to-many communications like a television broadcast.  The streaming presenter can still use input from a computer, document camera or white board but he or she is the only participant showing this input.

Article_75_Stream & videoconf_FINALThis brings us to the second question — When do you use videoconferencing and when do you use streaming? Videoconferencing is an interactive meeting whereby participants communicate with each other just like any other meeting.  Streaming would be used for a one-to-many scenario.  For example:  A quarterly financial report or major announcement to hundreds or thousands of investors.  In a stream participants cannot interact they can only observers the presentation.  There is also a major cost difference.  Cost per participant in streaming is very low compared to a videoconferencing event.

The third question – Where do you go to get help with videoconferencing and streaming?  We recommend a hosting company that does both.  They can certainly guide you to the right solution for your particular event or application.  The problem in going to a videoconferencing only source is that their recommended solution for everything is only videoconferencing and cost can get out of control.  The problem in going to a streaming only source is exactly the same, their recommended solution for everything is streaming, when your application really needs videoconferencing.  The good news is there are several firms that do both and do them efficiently with great customer service and guidance.  Below will help guide you to the best solution:


–          Interactivity or real-time input from participants is required

–          There is a limited number of participants – No more than 20

–          The agenda  requires decisions to be made by the participants, i.e. board meeting

–          Participants have web cams or mobile devices with web cams


–          No interactivity or real-time input required by participants

–          There are many participants

–          No decisions are needed by the participants

–          Participants have no web cam or video access

One more question:  What can you stream from?  Answer – Just about any computer or mobile device with a mic and camera.  You can also stream from a standard videoconferencing CODEC or camera.  If you are sharing input from a computer, it’s best to stream from a computer or videoconferencing CODEC with a VGA computer input port.




Why it’s a good idea to videoconference outside of your network

Early in the development of videoconferencing, manufacturers made units with proprietary algorithms.  This meant that each end point could only connect to the same equipment from the same manufacturer.  This was all right if a company with multiple locations and only needed to meet with participants within their own geographic footprint.   Over time this became impractical.  It would be like having your phones connect only to parties within your company.

It’s critical that any communication technology needs to connect outside of your network.  Imagine if email, cell phones, instant messaging, texting and faxes only worked within the company’s network.  This company would quickly go out of business.  If you call, email and text outside of your network wouldn’t make sense to meet customers, investors, suppliers, partners and others critical to your company’s success in a videoconference?

Firewall systemToday the good news is that companies making videoconferencing equipment all build to the ITU, International Telecommunications Union, standards. This makes it simple to connect anywhere in the world to any equipment including some of the new videoconferencing mobile apps.  The only constraint a company has in videoconferencing outside of their network is the firewall, which is very simple to work through by adjusting firewall settings.

This brings us to the ever expanding videoconferencing applications — Here are some real world videoconferencing applications where companies are connecting outside of their network every day:

  • A medical college is using a standards based mobile app to meet with interns in hospitals statewide.
  • An aerospace engineer meets with clients in Europe to present schematics from his computer.
  • Doctors routinely meet with patients in a nursing home outside of the hospital’s network.
  • One law firm is using a standards based mobile app to connect to conference rooms for depositions.
  • A recruiter interviews job candidates all over the world by connecting to public videoconferencing rooms.
  • A not for profit substance use organization counsels clients in local jails outside of their network.
  • A technical service company gets support from vendors using a standards based mobile app on an iPad.
  • A national distributor trains resellers outside of their network on new product offerings.
  • A construction company has safety training from headquarters to 9 remote job sites simultaneously.

The list of applications is growing every day. Standards based videoconferencing is changing the way we communicate and the way we conduct our daily business – All outside of our networks.

Videoconferencing Progression – As compared to cell phone progression

It’s hard to believe that the first cell phone call was made forty years ago in 1973.  A Motorola engineer by the name of Marty Cooper called Joel Engel, a colleague at Bell Labs, and said, “Joel this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone — a real handheld portable cell phone.”  Fast forward 20 years from that first cell phone call and many of you may be old enough to remember the first hand held mobile phone, known as “The Brick” by Motorola. This was the beginning of the migration away from mounted and fixed cell phones in our cars, to the pocket size smart phone we now take for granted.

Motorola_Brick_Phone_Video_Cell_PhoneEarly adapters paid a premium for the privilege of having the great flexibility of the Motorola hand held cell phone.  “The Brick” weighted over 2 pounds, cost thousands for dollars and had a battery life of 35 minutes. In spite of this, cell phone technology exploded with great creativity and technological advancement.  There are many reasons for this accelerated advancement.  One big reason was the cell network and cell towers that connected seamlessly to land based phones.  Users didn’t worry or think about how they called, they simply dialed any number and connected.  Early in cell phone development the only constraint was a limited cell tower footprint — later this became a moot point.

By comparison, videoconferencing had a fundamental disadvantage as it developed. Early on manufacturers produced products that work in proprietary algorithms.  Early adapters were forced to buy brand A or band X as these systems would only connect within each manufacture’s own family of products.  Customers using the equipment experienced low use and a limited or no return on investment.  Additionally they connected on cumbersome networks through the phone company’s Central Office on a dedicated circuit.   Proprietary algorithms stunted the development of videoconferencing and thus it did not have the quick and explosive advancement as seen in cell phone technology.   Videoconferencing development was a slow and expensive slog forward.  Today just about all of the early manufactures are out of business.

Videoconferencing advancement started to get traction in the late 90’s only after the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), established the standard algorithms.  Once this happened manufacturers were free to build in this standard on a more competitive level.  The clunky $65,000 dollar proprietary “legacy” videoconferencing system was quickly replaced by the $8,000 dollar “set-top” unit built on the new ITU algorithm standards. The computer was eliminated from the CODEC and video conferencing quickly evolved into an appliance similar to your VoIP phone.

Today we are full circle and ironically videoconferencing in now part of your cell phone or smart phone.  However, as they say — history repeats itself.   Now we have a variety of videoconferencing apps for the iPad, iPhone and Droid.   Guess what! – Most of these apps work through proprietary algorithms, the same scenario that stunted the development of videoconferencing in the first place.  This writer believes the applications that don’t adapt to the ITU standard will eventually collapse in the market place.

Let’s go back to the cell phone comparison.  If you are subscribing to or purchasing a videoconferencing app for your cell phone and it does not work within the ITU standard, it’s like selling you cell phone service and saying to you, “It will only connect to those with the same model cell phone and same service provider.” Would you buy that cell phone or cell phone service?  — Nobody would.

It’s the same for your computer.  For example WeBex and GoToMeeting both do videoconferencing, but they cannot connect to each other or connect to the videoconferencing standard.  Although they work great now, inevitably these business models will collapse.  Currently it’s very easy to videoconference and share content through any system through the ITU standard.  Users don’t have to worry about what service is being used.  There are videoconferencing apps that seamlessly connect to the standard.  I can make a video call from my cell phone right to the board room with a standards based videoconferencing CODEC, and the boardroom can share content right to my cell phone.  In the end the last apps standing will be on the ITU standard and history repeats again as it always does in technology.





Videoconferencing – The ultimate amenity for office space

In almost 20 years in selling videoconferencing technology our clients are really teaching us how powerful it can be.  One of our clients is the Akron Global Business Accelerator in Akron Ohio.  The Accelerator is a state-of-the-art center serving as a catalyst for driving and developing technology-based entrepreneurial innovation. The nonprofit program was created as a cooperative partnership between the City of Akron, the Akron Development Corporation, the University of Akron and the State of Ohio. Today the Accelerator is helping high-tech organizations in leading edge industries including:  Biomedicine; Advanced Materials (Nanotechnology); Alternative Energy Sources; Information Technology; and Instruments-Control Technology.

SkyscrapersAccelerator partners converted the former Goodrich warehouse into usable office space.  When the videoconferencing system was installed, we suggested opening it as a public room for an additional income stream.  Our client respectfully disagreed and said they want to keep their video conferencing room as a no cost amenity for the tenants.  There was a grand opening and tour of the newly renovated facility in 2006.  Since then this is one of the most successful business incubator projects in the county.  Occupancy is busting at the seams, and they are planning expansion.  The videoconferencing room is used constantly.  Small tech companies can now meet face to face worldwide with customers, partners, vendors and those critical to their businesses.

We manage and maintain a pubic videoconferencing room in Independence, Ohio. Our partner is a financial consulting firm with sub-tenants in their office space.  This is a public room for rent; however they offer sub-tenants free videoconferencing.  Needless to say, they have no problems attracting high quality sub-tenants. When space is available it’s quickly rented after seeing the public videoconferencing room.

Any large office space with common conference room facilities has a major opportunity to offer tenants a no cost amenity like videoconferencing. This could be a powerful magnet to attract high quality tenants.  Additionally a common area conference room can be a public videoconferencing room for non-tenants.   Property managers can list the room with the international videoconferencing room brokers and develop a passive income stream, while offering tenants free access.  This will give the office building owner a clear and decisive edge over neighboring properties.  Many shared office space developments have videoconferencing, but this is charged as an a la cart item for the tenants. One popular example is Regus with almost 2,000 locations.

Property managers are missing a powerful amenity without a common videoconferencing room.  It has a profound impact on occupancy.

Videoconferencing etiquette — Why it’s important

Video conferencing is just like any other face-to-face meeting and should be treated accordingly.  Many are used to audio conferencing, and the statistics on why an audio conference is so ineffective are shocking.

 Here is what people do during an audio conference, (Survey Source – Raindance Communications):

–          70%  Doing unrelated work

–          69%  Looking for the materials discussed in the conference

–          50%  Reading and/or sending e-mail or instant messages

–          37%  Eating

–          36%  Muting the call and talking to someone else

–          27%  Surfing the internet

Portrait of happy smiling businesswoman and colleagues on background, at officeYou cannot get away with any of the above items on a video conference because they will be seen and even exaggerated.  Video conferencing cameras exaggerate everything.  Did you ever hear this one?  “The camera adds twenty pounds to my weight.”  Other exaggerations include our faces.  Depending on how you are framed on your web cam, others at the far end may be seeing you on a 60” flat panel display with full audio.  Your head could be viewed bigger than real life.

Here are some rules of thumb to make sure you have successful video conferences:  Frame yourself properly, so others can see your face.  Make sure there is no light coming from behind you like a window with no blinds. Cameras adjust automatically and will adjust to the light creating a silhouette of you.  You will look like someone in the witness protection program.  Make sure your room has adequate lighting.  All video conferencing systems have a way to check your mic and audio.  Make sure you complete the proper testing before your meeting.  If they don’t hear you, and you don’t hear them, you are not part of the meeting.

With the mechanics of a video conference out of the way, on to etiquette:  Like any other meeting follow the introduction protocols.  Make sure everybody knows who is attending the video conference.  If you are controlling the meeting make sure everybody introduces themselves.  When listening, look at your screen. When talking look right into your camera.  This is critical because if you don’t look into the camera your eyes will be looking off to the side and it will seem like you are lying.  If you are on a multi-site call and using continuance presence, which means everybody is seeing everybody else simultaneously, like on Hollywood Squares, pay attention.  If you start to yawn or your eyes wonder off everybody notices and perceives that you are bored with the meeting and you don’t want to be there.  Finally, if you are conferencing from you home office, wear pants.  Sounds stupid to say, but one of our clients was meeting from his home office with executives in China.  He got up to grab some coffee, leaving the other side laughing.  He had a nice shirt and tie with his boxer shorts.  Remember; treat the meeting like any other physical meeting.