Speaker addresses Swedish American Chamber of Commerce via videoconference

The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce – Ohio, (SACC-Ohio), featured a speaker from Reston Virginia at one of their events last February.  The topic was perfect for this group – “The Imperative for Change — Why management style, personal views, and work attitudes have changed over the years.”   This presentation illustrates how the different generations communicate — Baby Boomers; X Generation and Y Generation.

There were three major challenges in getting this speaker.  The first challenge, Geography — The SACC-Ohio meetings are in Cleveland and the speaker is in Virginia.    The second challenge, Weather – Virginia is snowed in the month of February. The third challenge, Time – The speaker is a partner in a small consulting firm thus her time is extremely valuable and she could not be drawn away for two days for a one hour presentation.  Other challenges include:  The speaker never having any experience with videoconferencing; a PowerPoint® presentation that needed clear and well timed execution; and the fact that the chamber is meeting in a hotel in Cleveland, and as with most hotels, has lousy network and poor internet access.AVER_HVC310_Meeting_01

The first three challenges are easily addressed as SACC-Ohio decided to use standards based videoconferencing.  They engaged Glowpoint to secure a public videoconferencing room in Virginia minutes away from the speaker’s home.  The speaker never used videoconferencing before, but this was not a problem as the location had the expertise to set her up comfortably in their conference room.  They plugged her computer into the system for a seamless display of her PowerPoint® presentation using the standard Duo Video, H.239 collaboration algorithm. (See collaboration article).  At the hotel in Cleveland they used an AVER videoconferencing system, that automatically splits the screen with the speaker and the PowerPoint® Presentation.   This is a great feature as other systems cover content in the PowerPoint® image with the PIP or picture in picture showing the speaker.

The last challenge is the network.  Not having a reliable network will crash the entire meeting, but this was easily resolved.  As mentioned, hotel internet connections are very bad for videoconferencing.  The safe assumption is no reliable network and not enough bandwidth.  SACC-Ohio contracted with a Verizon distributor who brought in a wireless 4G router with a public static IP address — Very simple to hook up with the videoconferencing system.  SACC-Ohio has access to a very bright projector with a robust speaker and amplifier, thus all of the 25 attendees could hear the presenter clearly and see every detail in her PowerPoint® Presentation.  The question and answer portion worked smoothly.  The presenter can hear all the questions clearly and the audience can hear all the answers.   The pan-tilt zoom camera with automatic presets accommodates panning from one side of the room to the other during the question and answer period.

This is relatively easy and simple set up if you have the right resources. SACC-Ohio definitely knew who to contact to execute a successful event via videoconference at a hotel with no reliable network or internet access.

3 ways to implement videoconferencing with no capital budget

Twenty plus years ago the only companies that implemented videoconferencing were very large firms with likewise budgets.  A videoconferencing endpoint in one conference room required at least a $65,000 budget.  Often this budget was augmenting the aviation budget, funding corporate aircraft.  Like the corporate aircraft requiring a pilot these legacy systems require a technician and only connected through proprietary algorithms.  Needless to say there was a very low return on investment.  Over time the technology become less costly and connectivity became much easier because algorithms and connecting protocols are now standardized.  Today an endpoint for a conference room can be as little as $1,000 with the ability to connect anywhere and share content from a computer or mobile device. If you know how to make a cell phone call you already know how to make a video call — No technician required.  Additionally, there are hosted services available that require no equipment or capital expense. Cutting costs

Many small companies are serving larger firms well entrenched with videoconferencing and have the latest technology.  With a dramatic cost reduction and improved reliability, this allows much better communication and access for a small firm to call on and service the larger firms.

So here are three ways a small company with no budget can implement videoconferencing:

  1. Use a hosted service that provides      videoconferencing with collaboration; multi-site; live chat; and      annotation.  Make sure you have all      the billing options, i.e. by the event; month or year.  (See videoconferencing without equipment)
  2. Rent a public videoconferencing room.  These are available worldwide through a      variety of room brokers.  (See Glowpoint)
  3. Ask a competitive local exchange carrier or      phone company to include new equipment as part of your monthly circuit      bill.  (See Worry Free videoconferencing offer)

There is no excuse not to use videoconferencing.  All of the above options connect on the ITU, (International Telecommunications Standards).  Make sure whatever option you try works on the ITU standards. This is critical because any videoconferencing application or equipment not on the ITU standard will technically fall behind and be pigeon holed in a communication silo.

You can meet us on video anytime – Just call 330-677-5566 and reference this article.  We will send you a link to download our standards based videoconferencing app and we can meet — and it won’t cost a dime.

Is audio conferencing on the way out?

Serious Business People On Conference CallWe hear a lot these days about the dreaded audio conference call.  People muting out and not engaged; background noise like a child crying;  a participant puts everybody on hold and everybody hears elevator music; someone starts typing on their keyboard making it sound like wood peckers are invading the meeting.  Many question the productivity of audio conference calls.    In spite of all of this it will be a long time before audio conferencing becomes a thing of the past.

Phones are easy and certainly ubiquitous with competitive audio conferencing companies everywhere.  It’s simple to dial into an audio conference, but not so simple to run an effective meeting.  We don’t think it’s on the way out, but there will be some migration towards videoconferencing.  One of our companies, BtoB Connect, www.btobconnect.com,  uses Scopia by Avaya.  This platform accommodates the world wide video standards and we can integrate a regular phone connection for those who don’t have a mobile device or computer with a web cam.  We conduct monthly meetings on this platform and it is interesting to observe how video participants interact vs. audio participants.  The Video participants are much more engaged.  You can see clearly how they are reacting to the agenda and the presentation input from the computer.  Often audio participants are tuned out and when addressed there is dead air for a moment because they are multi-tasking or otherwise not engaged in the meeting.  The contrast on who is engaged is overwhelming when you mix audio participants with video participants.

What we like about the Scopia solution is it’s easy to control the meeting.  It’s very simple to mute and un-mute participant’s mics, eliminating echo and background noise instantly.  Also video participants have their names displayed right below their video image — this is like an electronic name tag.  Phone participants get a gateway ID number and this gets highlighted in bold type when they speak.  We write their name down next to the gateway ID as they enter the meeting.  Because Scopia works within the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), video standards we can seamlessly connect to a conference room using videoconferencing.   This platform allows us to stay above the fray and confusion with the “video app flavor of the month” that’s not built on the ITU world standards.

In time, routine videoconferencing from any computer and any mobile device will be as ubiquitous as audio conferencing, but audio conferencing will be around for a long time.

See the enclosed Wall Street Journal Report:  “Surviving a conference call”

See enclosed article: “Why audio conferencing is so ineffective”

 

How do I purchase videoconferencing equipment and who installs it?

Installtion_Article_84Videoconferencing is still a bit of a divergent product.   Most companies do not have videoconferencing in their conference rooms.  Many question whether they really need the technology — after all they got along without it for years.  So if your enterprise decides that they want to purchase videoconferencing equipment, where do you go?  A variety of companies supply the equipment and installation:  the phone company;  A/V Integrators; IT companies; Network providers and others.  With the refinement of international videoconferencing standards most enterprises will be compelled to implement videoconferencing sooner or later.  This will certainly become another essential way to communicate, like cell phones and email and texting.

If your enterprise is looking into videoconferencing first look carefully at your applications.  (Reference article – 10 Ways a Small Company Decreases Overhead and Creates Revenue with Videoconferencing)How  you will use videoconferencing is your first consideration. If you have multiple locations, domestic and internationally you may use videoconferencing for routine management meetings.  You may have key clients with videoconferencing, and you may want to meet with them more often without the encumbrance of travel.   Many applications eliminate driving across town.  For example courtrooms are using videoconferencing for cross town arraignments.  This saves a tremendous amount of time and expense for local townships not to mention the increased safety of not having to transport prisoners from the jail to the courtroom.  Local healthcare providers are also using videoconferencing to meet patients across town and in their homes.

Once you clearly define your applications let’s move on to how to purchase videoconferencing.  First look at the hardware options.  There are about 5 prominent manufacturers: Cisco; Polycom; Lifsize; Radvision; and AVER.  All make very good and reliable products.  You need to do some homework on the manufacturers.  Find out who owns them and if they plan to stay in the business.  For example Lifesize is owned by Logitech and Logitech was considering selling Lifesize.  This transaction could disrupt or change the support you’re getting from the manufacturer.  Narrow this down to a couple of favorites, but be open to any of the above manufacturer as they are always improving the technology and getting very cost competitive.

After you narrow down the videoconferencing manufacturer find a reliable dealer that does installation.  One big indicator of a reliable dealer is one that uses the technology.  Look for video IP numbers on their business cards.  If they don’t have one, find a dealer who does.  Do not buy videoconferencing from a dealer who does not use what they sell.  Most reliable dealers have excellent installers who work closely with their clients to make sure they are comfortable using the technology. If your company is new to using videoconferencing it’s easy to practice with the dealer using videoconferencing in their day to day operations.

Lawyers and Videoconferencing — Here are three stories

Themis 3330Early in the development of videoconferencing, attorneys were a bit slow in embracing the technology.  Over time, however law firms became very adept at using videoconferencing.  Here are three stories whereby lawyers maximized the technology and really took advantage of the benefits.  In the legal field time really is money.  You will see how these law firms became a tremendous asset to their clients because they use video conferencing.

Story One — A law firm specializing in medical malpractice needs to consult with experts around the country.  They purchased a videoconferencing CODEC with multi-point capability to connect with clients and expert witnesses.  This firm made their purchase in the late 1990’s making them a somewhat early adaptor.  They expanded this use to include depositions.  Many court reporting firms around the country use videoconferencing making it even more convenient for depositions requiring a court reporter.

Story Two — One law firm spent more than $25,000 for videoconferencing in their conference room only to discover it only worked on one communication standard that was used in VoIP but not in videoconferencing.  A rude awaking occurred as they noticed they could not videoconference with anybody.  The problem was fixed when they used the Radvision Scopia hosted service that works on all videoconferencing standards and can seamlessly connect to any PC, MAC or mobile device. They can now connect to anybody, even those who do not have videoconferencing equipment.  Radvision’s Scopia saved the day. (Link to Scopia Video)

Story Three — A senior partner in a mid size law firm was on an extended trip abroad.  A critical deposition was already scheduled and to take place while he is away.  He was planning on flying back in the middle of his extended stay, just for the 2 or 3 hour deposition.  This consideration was eliminated easily with Radvision’s Scopia mobile app.  The attorney seamlessly connected to the law firm’s standards based videoconferencing system and attended with full participation in the deposition right from his tablet.  The firm saved thousands of dollars and travel, not to mention the cost of the attorney’s time. The only thing the traveling attorney needed was broadband internet access.  Security was no problem as the video call was encrypted.

We learned a lot from our legal clients.  When they meet the last thing they want to worry about is the technology.  Simple control and standards based videoconferencing certainly eliminates these worries and allows attorneys to conduct important meetings anywhere anytime.

10 Ways a small company decreases overhead and creates revenue with videoconferencing

Outside sales without going outside   A small company can sign up with a hosted videoconferencing service and connect to clients and prospects without the need to purchase hardware or the need for the prospect or customer to subscribe to any hosted service.  This becomes a virtual company car traveling in several directions simultaneously at light speed. The ROI is almost immediate — More face time with clients with less sales people and a significant decrease in fuel expenses. (Sales Article)

Customer service and support   A small company’s customer service reps can meet with existing clients using a hosted videoconferencing to help resolve software problems in real-time, share information for trouble shooting, help customers update orders or resolve order discrepancies.  Using standards based videoconferencing all of the above applications are simple.  Additionally, on-site tech support can be accomplished on the factory floor using an iPad; iPhone or Smart phone.

 – Productivity   A small company with employees working from home in remote locations can increase productivity substantially eliminating trips and per diem costs going back and forth to the home office.  Small companies get the most out of field service reps and regional managers working in remote locations.

Management & Administration   Small companies really need to work more efficiently these days to survive, let alone thrive. Day to day operations run much more smoothly when all remote parties can meet face-to-face on video for management meetings.  For example Job interviews of potential candidates can easily be recorded through a hosted service or on a thumb drive with some videoconferencing systems.  Recordings can easily be shared through a link.  Also, participants miss fewer meetings.

Product training   Small distributors and manufacture’s reps can use videoconferencing to launch new products.  A critical part of this launch is new product training.  Using a hosted videoconferencing bridging service you can connect with many locations simultaneously and train everybody in one day with the entanglements and big expense of travel. The ROI in this application is immediate.

Supply Chain management   Supply chain management is critical part of any small manufacturer. Face to face video meetings with vendors and key partners can certainly increase efficiency.  Visits to key vendors can be significantly reduced while developing a closer a more efficient relationship with vendors.

Quality Control  A small manufacturer achieves better quality control when issues occur in the manufacturing process.  For example if a vendor ships a faulty part, the faulty part can be seen in real-time on video with the explanation on how it’s affecting the assembly line.  A small manufacturer can take the vendor right out to the factory floor via video to show problems in real time — Solutions present themselves quickly.

Marketing   One small manufacturer in Canada put a videoconferencing CODEC in their show room and published their public IP video number on their web site with an open invitation to connect and look around. Because they are using standards based videoconferencing, visitors can remotely take control of their PTZ, (Pan Tilt Zoom), camera and look around the show room on their own. They literally opened a video store front whereby any visitor can just pop in.  Staff is trained to welcome visitors and see if they need any help.  This is a genius marketing move on their part especially when most of their customers are in the videoconferencing business. (Link to VFI article).

Trade show participation   Some small companies are connecting videoconferencing from the trade show floor to the home office.  If key clients visit the exhibit and they need to meet with a design engineer or sales rep at the home office they can get business done right at the trade show exhibit.

Telecommuting on snow days   Just because the roads are closed doesn’t mean a small business needs to be closed.  Employees can still show up for work via videoconference through the Internet.   All the planned meetings can still take place complete with white board and collaboration through a videoconference hosted service.  The meeting can be recorded for later viewing for those who could not make the meeting.

As videoconferencing becomes more ubiquitous, more applications will present themselves. The bottom line is that videoconferencing affects the bottom line.  It all boils down to saving time and saving money.

Mobile videoconferencing apps – Sorting out the confusion

Here are a few mobile videoconferencing apps: Skype; FaceTime; Tango; EZMeetup; Adobe Connect; Hangouts; ClearSea and whatever the new Flavors of the Month,” are.  Many mobile videoconferencing apps are free, like Skype – But therein lays the confusion.  Many of these work well in the context of personal use, like meeting with your son, daughter or significant other who is away at school or serving overseas.  These solutions, however, fall short in the context of business use or as a routine way to communicate in the enterprise. The first big problem is the fact that they all work independently in their own proprietary protocols and not within the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), standards.  Many working in business use these mobile videoconferencing apps and certainly like the idea of what they do, but find they all fall short in practical use within the enterprise.Question mark cubes

Another problem with most of these apps is there is no collaboration or sharing documents, very much needed in most business meetings.  Younger people expect everything to work seamlessly and for the most part they do with many of these videoconferencing apps — However they don’t work seamlessly with each other because they ignore the ITU videoconferencing standards.  As younger people get older and work in business they will expect videoconferencing to connect seamlessly with collaboration and without the worry of who is using what app.

Over time the confusion will dissipate because all videoconferencing applications and equipment will be designed and developed within the ITU standards.  Currently we have a “Tower of Babel” scenario built in proprietary videoconferencing silos.  In the long run this inefficiency will catch up with itself and the videoconferencing apps built in silos will either collapse or adapt to the ITU world standards.

One of the redeeming qualities of the free videoconferencing apps like Skype is that it gets many people using videoconferencing and seeing the benefits of meeting face-to-face on video as opposed to an audio call.  To clearly see where this is all headed you need to look at email; cell phones; texting and all the other ways we communicate with technology.  Certainly you do not see separate texting apps or separate email apps that only work with those using that specific app.

Currently there are several high tech innovators developing videoconferencing apps that work within the ITU standards and can connect to any conference room or board room with a standards based videoconferencing system.  In time more of these innovators will appear.  In the future, choosing a videoconferencing app will be simple.  It will be the one you are comfortable using and can connect to any conference room, board room, or other person using an ITU standard based videoconferencing app.

Videoconferencing technology is leading edge in many ways, yet far behind in other ways.  Soon these apps will be easy to use and you won’t have to worry about how any other party connects.  Videoconferencing will be just as ubiquitous and easy to use as email and texting.

My advice — It won’t hurt to try a free app, but don’t use them in a critical business meeting.  Stick with the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), videoconferencing standards.  Also continue to visit this web site as we are keeping a close eye out for any solutions using ITU standards based videoconferencing.