Screen Real Estate – a Critical Factor in Making Video Calls As Good As “Being There”

I would like to share an interesting conversation I had with our Montreal location manager, Real Desmarais, on a recent trip to our Montreal office.  The conversation was revealing of just how powerful screen real estate is when you are deploying collaborative solutions between locations.

First, I do use collaboration tools to bridge many of the discussions with our Montreal office, but there are still times where being there is important:

  • When you have to meet with customers
  • When you want to spend a lot of time “soaking in” the environment to get a better feel for an operation
  • Spending time with people when you are not “On” in a conversation

Got it?  Now back to the main story…

Over lunch Real and I were talking about the bi-weekly Sales meetings that we hold.  Real is a remote participant in those meetings which are held in our boardroom in Toronto.

Real’s words merit repeating –I can feel the room react.” Wow! I have always underscored with our customers the critical need to invest in screen real estate in their meeting rooms but his response really brought home that point.

I told him, “You know, I have to say that when we hold the Sales Meetings you have a very big presence in the meetings.  Your face is bigger than life in those meetings [projected, full screen, on an 87” SMART Board] and everyone in the meeting is very keenly aware of your presence and what you have to say.”

Real responded, “Yes, I know.  I feel it.”

I asked, “What do you mean?”

Real replied, ”Even though I am sitting in my office in Montreal at my desktop, every time I move or do anything, I can feel the room react.  So I am very engaged and concentrating on what is going on in the meeting.”

Screen real estate has always been compromised in video conferencing installations and I believe it is one of the biggest mistakes people make when deploying video conferencing in their organizations.

Video conferencingScreen real estate is a great investment that is often not only overlooked, but can become the first point of focus when trying to pare down the cost of a video conferencing implementation.  The cost of LCD screens 5 or 6 years ago may have contributed to this problem and if so it is somewhat understandable.  But with today’s much lower screen costs and available alternatives, saving on screen real estate in a video conferencing room is like preparing for a race and then shooting yourself in the foot before running the race.

What I mean by that is that video conferencing deployments within an organization can mean a sizable investment in network, equipment, deployment, training, etc.  If you try to save money by limiting the screen real estate you are crippling the results you are trying to achieve before you even get started.  That sizable investment also has an even more sizable ROI if the video conferencing facilities are used.  The better the experience, the more the video conferencing equipment will be used.  More screen real estate, means a better user experience.

If you can make the remote participants bigger than life in your meeting, then they will truly feel like they are part of the meeting.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear that remote participants on audio only conferences are either forgotten on the conference call, or want to be forgotten.  When you are using audio only, it is very easy to have the remote participant drift into the background of the meeting.

The same is true with a very small image of video.   If the image is too small, it might as well not be there!  And in fact, many people turn it off because it doesn’t add much to the meeting.

Being remote can be “better” than being there for the participants on both sides of the video conference.  And to do that you have to make the experience, Bigger Than Life – see my previous blog What the Movies Can Teach Us About Real Time Collaboration.

Invest in screen real estate in your video conferencing deployments.  This goes for room systems as well as for desktop/laptop usage.  Screen real estate is actually one of the cheapest investments you can make to greatly excel the velocity of collaboration in your organization.

Follow this blog for one of my upcoming and related blogs – “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Determining Screen Real Estate in a Video Conferencing Room.”