Video conferencing isn't a new technology. Search for "the benefits of video conferencing" and you will find quite a few articles that are at least five years old. Though the technology isn't new, adoption of video technology in companies, even tech companies, has at times been slow.
At Motili, we have a distributed team with offices in Denver and New York. In addition to our two offices, we often have employees working remotely. When we're not in the same place, we use video conferencing for scrum standup, management meetings and even one-on-one meetings throughout the week.
Some are eager to turn on their cameras, but we do hear a few common objections from those who are a little reluctant.
I'm uncomfortable with how I look on camera. The lighting in the conference room isn't ideal, your hair is out of place, the camera on your computer isn't high quality, your computer freezes with your face stuck in an awkward position. No one looks their absolute best in a video conference. But why are you so worried about how you look? Focus on the others you're communicating with and you will forget to worry so much about how you look. As you start to use video conferencing more, you will find that it becomes less awkward and more natural.
People will know when I'm multi-tasking. When your video is turned on, it's easier to tell when you're distracted, typing, reading or generally not paying attention. Try scheduling shorter meetings so everyone can stay focused and accomplish the task at hand. If you find that you don't need to attend a meeting, don't go!
Unreliable technology. This argument may have been valid in the past, but increased internet speeds and a variety of software and hardware products make video conferencing easy and even free for many. Free products like Google Hangouts, Skype and FaceTime use your computer's camera and are available on mobile devices. We use GoToMeeting and a Logitech Conference Cam that shows the whole room and has a speaker.
WHY WE LOVE VIDEO
Focus and productivity Being on video forces participants to pay more attention and if everyone is engaged, meetings have less repetition and can end faster. Most of us feel like we spend too much time in meetings, so help yourself out by paying attention and scheduling shorter meetings. Video also has the added benefit of allowing you to see when someone steps away from their desk. There's nothing worse than finishing a complicated explanation only to realize the person you were speaking to stepped away from the phone.
Non Verbal Communication is more important than the words we use. Studies show that over half of our meaning is conveyed through nonverbal elements like facial expressions, gestures and posture. Vocal elements (tone, inflection) are also important, but don't convey the full message. You might be yelling into a phone with a smile on your face simply because the audio equipment isn't working.
How do you interpret long silences on a phone conference? Are the people in your meeting thinking and processing? Or are they angry? Excited? It's hard to tell with a phone, but easier to interpret with video.
Foster team building Video conferences make a remote team feel more connected to each other. You get to see your colleague's face, funny t-shirts and form a more personal connection. People tend to show more of their personality when they can see each other speaking. It's harder to get frustrated and angry when you remember that you're talking to a person and not just a voice.
Next time you're in a remote meeting, turn on your video camera!