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.”

Conferencing Technology that Gives You the Biggest Bang for the Buck

buckIn the corporate world, people meet to discuss a subject, contribute their knowledge and agree to actions or outcomes. When one or more of the meeting participants is not present in the meeting room, the remote participants have to conference into the meeting. If there is no meeting room and all participants are joining from their own location, then the meeting is considered a virtual meeting.

To conference into a meeting or to hold a virtual meeting there are four different conferencing technologies which can be combined to suit the purpose of the meeting – Audio, Web, Video and Interactive Whiteboard (IWB).

Let’s breakdown that statement before we move on to the conferencing technologies.

First, it is important to distinguish the difference between conferencing into a meeting that is being held in a physical place with live participants and establishing a virtual meeting where no participants are in the same place. The first scenario extends a physical meeting to remote participants and the conferencing technologies are used to bring the remote participants into the meeting; the second scenario is often referred to as a virtual meeting and in this case there is NO physical meeting, the technology is bringing ALL the participants together into a ‘virtual’ meeting room.

Secondly, the type of meeting is also important in determining which conferencing technologies are needed to support the meeting. I like to think of things as not Black or White, but in terms of a continuum or scale and label the extreme ends of the scale.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 11.22.30 AMThe “Type of Meeting” scale would have “Highly Controlled” on one side of the scale and “Highly Collaborative” on the other end of the scale. The kind of meetings you have in your room(s) will fall somewhere on that scale and should dictate what technologies you will have in the room to support the meeting type(s). For most corporate rooms you want to have some flexibility in the room to accommodate the different meeting types and only specialize if the room is dedicated to meetings that are at either end of the scale.

You now need to combine the four conferencing technologies in such away that you strike an optimal balance of benefit/capability and cost – an ROI. I am not going to discuss the ROI here, but check here for a blog article on that topic.

Each one of the four conferencing technologies brings a dimension of richness to a meeting and each one can vary significantly depending on how it is designed and implemented.

With all four conferencing technologies you can get started on a pretty thin budget, especially with tools like Skype available for anyone to use for free. But there are limits to what you can do with the free tools and when the free tools start to cost you organizational time to manage or reflect badly on the image of your company, it’s time to up your game.

Audio is the table stakes conferencing technology – if you don’t have sound you don’t have a conference.  The other three conferencing technologies can be added to increase the ability to collaborate over distance for the participants.  Or, to say it more elegantly, to increase the Velocity of Collaboration – a term I picked up from Frost & Sullivan.

Web, Video and Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) conferencing all add a different dimension of richness to the meeting, but from my experience IWB can enrich a meeting more than the other conferencing technologies because it allows participants to collaborate at a deeper level, elevating communication to a deeper conversation.

Interestingly, the high ROI meetings are the highly collaborative meetings. This is where your organization can realize productivity or strategic benefit. These types of meetings can be stifled by experiences where the technology gets in the way or the technology does not deliver an experience that is rich enough for participants to communicate in a truly conversational manner.

For more information on the four conferencing technologies and how to assess your current room(s) download our free Guide.

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Collaboration in Your Company

Boosting your collaborative capabilities does not have to be a huge investment. To be clear here, I am talking about real time or interactive collaboration which is a combination of 4 different conferencing technologies – audio, web, video and interactive whiteboards (IWB). There is a 3 pronged approach. Upgrading your collaborative experience does not have to be expensive and the returns can be huge. Putting in the right tools to support and enhance how you work together with people and increase your velocity of collaboration is paramount.

What the Movies Can Teach Us About Real Time Collaboration…

What can we learn from the movie going experience that we can apply to connecting people in different locations? What can we do to make the experience richer or bigger than life? You can create a conferencing and collaboration experience that is bigger than life and is better than being there! The formula for increased collaboration in simple, get our Free guide now.

What’s the Difference Between Web Conferencing and Video Conferencing?

At the most basic level, the difference between web conferencing and video conferencing is that web conferencing allows you to share a computer’s content over a distance and video conferencing allows you to see the other people you are connecting to from wherever they are. That is a pretty straight forward answer. But there are many different web conferencing technologies and video conferencing technologies available int he market with different functionalities and price points.

New Collaboration Tools That Fit Your Strategy

Collaboration is a hot word amongst the leading IT companies: companies like CISCO, IBM and SAP are all using ‘collaboration’ as a catch all word to describe the new ways that staff and customers can interact with each other. The word means slightly different things to each of these companies, but on the whole they describe both a physical, and virtual way that we can talk, share and interact with each other, which makes use of a variety of technologies.

Understanding Human Communication in The Boardroom And Beyond

In meaning human interaction facial expression, and direct eye contact matter. They are a critical part of forging relationships, gauging thoughts and feelings and reacting appropriately. In most remote collaboration and videoconferencing applications, eye-contact is neglected. Instead, the discussion revolves around; screen size, HD Codec, proper sound, lighting, bandwidth, QoS considerations. These considerations are important, along with travel cost reductions, green initiatives, improved quality of life for employees, etc. But, if you drill down into remote collaboration and video conferencing to the core, it is about one thing: COMMUNICATION.