The Difference Between a Virtual Audio Call and a Virtual Video Call?

And some of the shortcomings of each

If you have ever been in an audio conference call, then take a few minutes and watch this viral video that received over 5 million views – you will get a good laugh.

The video is called “A Conference Call in Real Life” and is a parody of some of the shortcomings of an audio conference call.  Anyone who has been a part of an audio conference call will get a good laugh from the different things that happen and which are in effect, shortcomings of an audio conference call.

An audio conference call is a call where all participants dial in and are joined electronically into a single conversation.

The list of shortcomings captured in the video:

  1. Having to announce who you are, so people know who is attending.
  2. People not listening to your announcement and having to repeat who they are.
  3. Not cueing off each other in an audio only mode or perhaps better described as tripping over each other in the conversation.
  4. Dropped participants having to re-enter the call without anyone knowing they dropped in the first place (gap of what was missed).
  5. People continuing to join and interrupting the meeting once it has started.
  6. Having to endure people trying to get access i.e. not knowing how access codes and PIN numbers are used.
  7. Having to “re-start” the meeting agenda multiple times due to above issues.
  8. Having to “re-identify” yourself when you are speaking, so everyone knows who is saying what.
  9. Interrupting or cutting in on each other when different participants want to speak at the same time – leads to awkward discussion.  No visual clues to follow.
  10. People dropping off in the middle of speaking and not even realizing they are no longer connected to the meeting, and when they lost the group.
  11. Participants going on “mute” and saying something, not realizing they are still muted.  Other participants are left wondering whether the muted person is still part of the call.
  12. Distracted participants doing other things on the call – like playing a game.
  13. Communications technology that is supposed to allow sharing of content with other participants, does not work for all participants because it does not work on all devices (this takes the scenario beyond just an audio conference call).
  14. Participant from his home office having their dog interrupt the meeting with an outburst of barking.
  15. Participant from a coffee shop having the coffee shop background noise become part of the audio conference call.
  16. The sound interference coming from someone’s personal audio set-up that makes the call no longer functional from an audio point-of-view.
  17. Participants being able to leave the meeting (for Happy Hour) by pretending the audio connection is degrading and ultimately dropping.
  18. A good summary of the situation could have replaced the whole meeting in the first place – meeting wasn’t necessary.
  19. Participants might be part of the meeting and no one knew they were there because: they didn’t announce themselves; they didn’t say anything during the meeting.
  20. People leave the meeting before it is really wrapped up.

That is a long list and I am sure it doesn’t include all the shortcomings of an audio conference call.  We can laugh at the shortcomings but there are many benefits to audio conferencing, which basically boil down to extending a meeting to any participant with a phone line to be able to join the meeting from wherever they are.  Saving time and money.

Does a Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) using Video help eliminate these shortcomings?

Not as many people have experienced a virtual meeting using video.  In a VMR there is no physical meeting place that is part of the conference, the participants are all coming into the virtual meeting from wherever they are – from a PC, tablet or mobile device.  On a PC the meeting would look something like this:

video conference

That means that you can see everyone else, all at once in the meeting, assuming the meeting is only with a smaller number of participants.  If there were a larger number of participants the images would swap in and out.  Note: Most meetings have less than 6 participants.

With a VMR we still have the audio, but now we can see the other participants as well – so how does that help mitigate the list of shortcomings for the audio conference call, which were listed above?

Let’s take the 20 shortcomings from the list above and see what happens to the shortcoming when we use a video VMR instead of an audio conference call.  I am going to put the shortcomings into 3 categories: eliminates the problem; mitigates the problem; still a problem.

Category Shortcoming
Eliminates the Problem 1, 2, 8, 9, 101, 112, 133, 19
Mitigates the Problem 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 17, 20
Still a Problem 14, 15, 16, 18

Notes:

  1. Does not eliminate drop off
  2. Does not eliminate mistakenly being muted
  3. Depends on the communications tool being used

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.50.04 AMDoing some quick stats on the list of shortcomings and we find that 80% of the shortcomings are either eliminated or mitigated and 40% are eliminated.

Those are interesting stats!

It is also worth noting that a video VMR does not eliminate all the problems and a few other basic problems listed in the notes below the table, but as users become more comfortable with the technology and the technology gets better, some of these problems will go away as well.

This is not a comprehensive analysis, just a quick look at the conference call parody, but when you provide a richer communications experience, your communication gets a whole lot better.  Which is important, because – if we can communicate better, our organizations become better; better in a lot of ways.

What do you find to be the most frustrating shortcoming of either audio or video virtual conference calls?   And if you have any tips for overcoming them – please share.

 

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