Last fall, I was standing in a hotel lobby in Boca Raton, Florida, where I was attending our annual Collaboration Summit. I noticed an energetic woman walking directly toward me. “It’s so great to see you!” she said when she reached me.
I quickly attempted to access the facial-recognition software in my own brain to identify her.
Click, click, click…
I’m terrible with faces.
Click, click, click…
I think I recognize people I don’t know, and I don’t recognize people I’ve met.
Click, click, click…
She saved me further embarrassment and introduced herself. We’d recently worked on a big presentation together. Over instant messaging and e-mail. And on the phone. We’d never met in person, but she recognized me immediately. Why? Because I always use video in online meetings and conference calls.
Later that evening, I went to a reception with a group of customers. In the weeks prior, I’d had WebEx meetings with many of them to review agendas and answer questions. Several people approached me saying they’d recognized me from the call. One said she wasn’t sure she was at the right reception until she saw me there.
I don’t use video because I’m enamored with my own visage, but because I find it useful. And easy to do. At first it was a bit awkward – did I just scratch my nose? – but it quickly became routine. Sometimes I’m the only person on a call using video. Other people will often start their video after noticing that I’m using mine.
A Forrester study of how knowledge workers collaborate showed that 71% work from a personal desk within their organization four to five days per week. And even for collaborative tasks, employees tend to work from their desks to a much greater extent than at any other location, such as a conference room. Case in point: they make 88% of phone calls from a personal desk at work.
Most of my meetings are with people in different offices, sometimes within the same postal code and other times on a different continent. If you consider that 65% of communications is nonverbal, video definitely makes a difference when you’re not in the same room. Video helps me have more effective conversations and develop more effective working relationships.
In fact, 87% of remote users feel more connected to their team and process when using videoconferencing, according to a Gigaom report on video conferencing and business collaboration published last month.
Video gives me insight into people beyond the meeting agenda. For instance, I know that:
- James usually commutes to the office, but sits at different desks, and likes to wear striped shirts.
- Stefanie has her kids’ artwork hanging on the wall behind her.
- Karina has Argentinean artwork in her home office.
- Eddie follows World Cup and would be a horrible poker player.
- Fran probably needs an industrial vacuum for the hair her dogs must shed on a weekly basis.
- Julie has a seriously comfortable looking desk chair – and an ever-present coffee cup.
These little pieces of information give me perspective on someone’s day and they open opportunities to know more about people with whom I spend so much virtual time. Striped shirts probably don’t sound like a earth-shattering fact, but if James showed up in a jacket and tie, I’d know something wasn’t status quo. On the other hand, if Chris is wearing a tie, I know he had a customer meeting during the day. If I don’t see Julie’s coffee cup, I don’t ask budget questions. You get the idea.
If you’re on calls with me, you’ll figure out that I usually work from the office, gesture a lot, and have a toy chicken on my whiteboard. Most important, you can see that I’m engaged in our conversation.
With multitasking at epidemic proportions, I appreciate knowing that the people on the other end of a call are paying attention. With video, I have a better sense of their engagement. I’m more likely to hear, “can you repeat that?” or a question about something covered just minutes before from someone who isn’t using video. Go figure.
A study Cisco did with the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that 53% of business leaders strongly agree that video enables richer, more productive relationships with colleagues, clients, and suppliers. I’d venture to say that number will continue to increase as video becomes a more pervasive element of workplace collaboration.
A global survey of 1300 managers aged 34 and under gives insight into what younger leaders think about business-class video. For example:
- 3 of 5 say they will rely more heavily on business-class video during the next 5 to 10 years.
- 87% believe video has a significant and positive organizational impact.
- 94% in organizations with fewer than 400 employees value video as a way to break down language barriers.
- 87% would choose to work for a video-enabled organization over one that isn’t, because the video-enabled organization “cares about using technology to fuel business growth.”
But there are a few hurdles to clear first. And they’re probably not the ones you’d expect. It’s not technology. The top five reasons young execs opt out of turning on their cameras?
- Messy office
- Personal appearance concerns
- Want to multi-task
- Must eat
- Generally not comfortable on video
Don’t let vanity get in the way of productivity and more effective meetings. Tidy your desk (or adjust your camera’s focus area), make sure there’s no spinach in your teeth, and join the conversation.
What’s your best excuse for not using video in online meetings?
Learn more about the benefits of incorporating video into meetings.