TelePresence: is it really better than a phone call or email?

World's Fair in New York 1939

But is it really better than a phone call or email? That’s the number one question I get asked when I tell people I work for a company that manufactures and sells TelePresence and video conferencing equipment. It’s hard for people to truly understand the enhanced communication experience enabled by a face-to-face call.

“Why can’t I just pick up the phone and call them? Why do I need to see them?” Well, I can cite all sorts of research saying face-to-face communication strengthens relationships and builds trust, or that over half of communication is non verbal, so by not seeing the person’s reactions to what you are saying, you are essentially missing half of the conversation. But, the easiest experience to equate it to is radio versus television.

Back in the 1940s no one could imagine anything better than the radio delivering exciting tales and/or news to every home. When the world was first introduced to the television at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, it probably seemed just as outlandish and unnecessary as TelePresence does to many today. But ask people who doubt the merits of TelePresence and video conferencing whether they’d rather watch their favorite show on TV or listen to it on the radio and I expect most would choose the visual format.

While we are a stubborn society somewhat adverse to change, we are also a visual society. Once people muster up the will to experience visual communications first-hand, there is usually no turning back. I for one definitely wouldn’t find Modern Family (my favorite show) nearly as funny if I couldn’t see the hysterical faces and physical comedy that keep me laughing through the entire show.

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